FISHERMEN hope to land a vital catch next year – with a breakthrough in long-running efforts to give them a permanent, modern base within Littlehampton harbour.
Plans for a new fishermen’s hub have been drawn up for Littlehampton Harbour Board, creating a secure riverside compound where nets and other gear could be stored and where the catch could be brought ashore and loaded straight onto waiting transport.
For many years, fishermen have seen themselves as forgotten figures in the harbour, feeling overlooked by changes around the river, not always presenting a united front in their bid for better facilities and in one case more than a decade ago, even taking the authorities to the High Court when boat owner Clive Mills’ moorings were set to disappear with the construction of the East Bank regeneration scheme.
However, a combination of circumstances has led to the prospect of a brighter future for the fleet, including the determination of harbourmaster Billy Johnson to bring about the hub, and the building of the new flood defences, which have improved the waterfront site, at Quayside, north of the footbridge.
Mr Johnson said: “We don’t do enough in Littlehampton for the inshore fishing fleet. It’s exactly the kind of sustainable fishery we should be encouraging.
“It’s only a small, inshore fleet, about 15 boats, and most of them under 10m, but it has managed to sustain itself. They change their catches depending on what fish is available, and according to the season.
“If we can provide the infrastructure on this site, then with the fishing fleet’s own input, too, they have more chance for their businesses to be successful, and to go on to invest themselves, perhaps with ice machines and other facilities.”
The harbour board has worked with Arun District Council on drafting the project, and consulted with representatives of the fleet to keep them informed and include their ideas.
Pontoons, a jetty, gangway and loading bay are among the proposals and a grant application has been submitted to the Coastal Communities Fund.
Fishermen’s spokesman Paul Childs welcomed the progress. He said: “It sounds very promising. There have been all sorts of schemes in the past which have come to nothing, so hopefully this one will succeed.
“Ours is a tough industry, so hopefully with proper facilities ashore, it will mean a better future for all.”