Until a few weeks ago I had no idea what or who the Sandwich Port and Haven Commissioners are. Now I have found out I must say I’m less than impressed. So much so that I firmly believe the commissioners and the Harbour Master they employ are totally unfit for purpose.
Such is the degree of their unfitness that I think they should all be dismissed from their posts and new, more capable, people brought in to replace them. Strong stuff - yes very - but please let me explain why I am calling for their dismissal. But first some history.
The Sandwich Port and Haven Commissioners were established by the Sandwich Port and Haven Act of 1925. The Act charged the Commissioners with responsibility “to regulate, maintain and improve the Sandwich Port and Haven and the navigation thereof”. To fulfil its responsibilities the Act permitted the Commissioners to levy fees and charges on port users, to borrow money, and to buy, sell, or rent property .
In 1976 the Sandwich Port and Haven Commissioners (Constitution) Revision Order gave responsibility to Dover District Council for appointing the eight Commissioners who along with the Harbour Master manage Sandwich Port and Haven. Fast forward 47 years to 2023.
I first came into contact with the Commissioners after emailing them on 9th April 2023 about an unlawful marina development, near Pegwell Bay. I wanted to know if the Commissioners and the Harbour Master, Ian Broughton, knew about this development. Whether, despite its location in a very sensitive environmentally protected area, they had authorised the development, and whether they had consulted Dover District Council, or any other organisations, about what is clearly, even to the untrained eye, a dodgy and environmentally damaging development. I got no reply.
I sent a reminder on 18th April 2023 but got no reply. I sent another reminder and a request for annual accounts and minutes of meetings going back five years on 8th June 2023, yet again no reply.
The silence of the Commissioners and Harbour Master led to
me believe something was being covered up, so I decided to find out more about the organisation, which appeared to me to be some sort of modern day waterfront Mafia who do as they like without being answerable to anyone, apart from themselves.
My investigations quickly uncovered a Department for Transport publication Ports Good Governance Guidance, a 42 page document which sets out a series of recommendations which should be followed by the managers of all English ports and harbours, including Sandwich Port and Haven which is classified as a Trust Port.
The good governance recommendations for Trust Ports include the following:-
That in the execution of their duties the Commissioners and Harbour Master should adhere, at all times, to the seven principles of public life (the Nolan principles) which includes acting with integrity being selfless, open, honest, objective, accountable and demonstrating leadership
That Trust Ports should be accountable to their stakeholders, especially the local community. Accountability includes the holding of public meetings, the publication of annual accounts and reports, publishing agendas and minutes of Commissioner meetings. Accountability to the local community stakeholders also includes consulting with the public about major decisions, business plans, strategic reviews, publishing performance management and compliance data and establishing a complaints process.
In relation to my requests for information the Commissioner and Harbour Master clearly breached several of the good guidance recommendations. In relation to engagement with the local community, there can be no doubt that the Commissioners and Harbour Master have broken every single recommendation in the book!
Accounts and annual reports have never been published, nor
have minutes of meetings, or business plans, strategic reviews, performance data safety risk assessments etc. Nor have there been any public consultations and nor have any public meetings been held. Despite recommendations to set one up, there is no complaints process. If there was I would have used it instead of writing this article.
There can be no doubt that the Sandwich Port and Haven Commissioners are unfit for purpose and the port and haven are being badly managed by the Commissioners and the Harbour Master.
For a port situated and operating in one of the most environmentally sensitive and legally protected areas in the country, to be managed by a team who have, and continue to, ignore the guidance of Department for Transport is utter madness and stores up serious trouble for the future. This is why I call for the dismissal of the current commissioners and Harbour Master and their replacement by more capable people who will ensure the port and haven will follow and comply with all guidance, rules, and regulations.
So concerned am I about what I believe to be the mismanagement of Sandwich Port and Haven that I have complained to Baroness Vere the Under Secretary of State with responsibility for ports and harbours, Councillor Kevin Mills the Leader of Dover District Council and Councillor Paul Carter the Mayor of Sandwich. I hope that they will launch an investigation into my concerns and ensure that a port noted for its history and environmental importance, gets the management it urgently requires. Rather than an unaccountable 1950s New York style waterfront Mafia.
Watch out for my second article about the Commissioners – coming your way soon.
Unlawful Marina update. Dover District Council and the Marine Management Organisation are currently investigating this development. Here are the links to the articles I have published about it:-
Call out: If you have any information about the Commissioners/ Harbour Master or the unlawful marina development which you think I might be interested in, please contact me. I never, ever, reveal my sources and am 100% confidential.