A CALL has been made for river authorities to invest in a dredging scheme in Littlehampton harbour in an effort to bolster the town’s economy.
Residents and fishermen have claimed that a build-up of silt in the River Arun could limit the town’s appeal for wealthy yacht owners to moor their boats in the harbour.
The appeal was made on Monday morning, at a meeting of the Littlehampton Harbour Board, at the Arun Civic Centre, in Maltravers Road.
Resident Dave Basnett said: “The town is exploding with people. There’s a revenue stream there to put boats on the river.
“If we can make the river more appealing by reducing the silt build-up, it will bring more revenue to the town.”
Mr Basnett said members of the board were responsible for maintaining the harbour and had a duty of care to those using the river, something which he felt was not being adhered to.
“I have lived here for 30 years and have been involved with the river for much of that time,” he told the harbour board. “I have noticed that the boats on the west side of the river, which only a few years ago, used to be floating are now standing up in the air with some leaning dangerously.
“This is because of the silt build-up. It means that some boats are being damaged where they are bending on the silt.
“Surely there is a duty of care to those people mooring their boats in the river.”
Harbourmaster Billy Johnson said he agreed that there was a duty of care.
However, he explained that this duty of care was the responsibility of the berth’s owner, not the harbour board.
All those who were renting a berth should speak to the person letting them the space, he said.
“I would say that on the berths that the harbour board owns and runs, in Pier Road, Town Quay and Duke’s Wharf, we do spend a lot of money maintaining those berths,” he added.
Other residents claimed that dredging the Arun could reduce the risk of flooding for the communities living on the western side of the river.
Bill Chapman said the floods across the nation had highlighted the importance of dredging rivers, which he felt were part of the problem.
Mr Chapman said: “You need to remember that at one point about 300 hundred people used to work on the west bank. There are still plenty of people living in the mobile homes that are at risk of flooding.
“Surely this silt building up is causing more flooding.”
Mr Johnson said that flooding was going to happen. He felt that he was not in a position to make a decision about whether or not the River Arun would need to be dredged.
However, he said he would speak with the Environment Agency to see whether a dredging scheme was viable for the Arun.
“Flooding is going to happen,” Mr Johnson explained. “One argument against dredging is that to increase the effectiveness of the river upstream for fluvial dredging you would actually increase the flow of water down river.”
During the board meeting, councillor Dr James Walsh said that plans were already on the cards for flood defence improvements along the west bank as part of Arun’s local plan.