The Littlehampton Harbour Board is awaiting a court judgement which could have serious implications for its future and the marine industry.
The board attended Worthing County Court on September 20 after Osborne of Arun Group launched a claim against them, which said charging harbour fees for pontoons was unlawful.
The Osborne of Arun Group, which owns the land for Littlehampton Yacht Club and Arun Ship Yard, has also claimed the repayment of 20 years of fees, equating to more than £12,000. But this part of their claim was postponed until the court decides if the Harbour Board was legally correct to charge the fees.
A statement from the Harbour Board said: “We are awaiting a decision from the judge and until that judgement has been handed down it would be improper to comment further.
“Once a decision has been received the harbour board will be in a position to consider potential impacts for harbour policy, its users and the general ratepayer and a full statement will be issued.”
Robert Boyce, who owns Osborne of Arun, said the decision would have national implications, because as far as he knew Littlehampton was the only place in the country where pontoons were charged in this way.
If the judgement were to go in the harbour board’s favour, it would mean hundreds of thousands of pontoons up and down the country could be charged, giving harbour boards a new source of income, he said.
But if the judge agreed with Mr Boyce, the Harbour Board may owe as much as £250,000 to other pontoon owners. Mr Boyce said: “We want to ensure the harbour board works within its powers granted by Parliament and doesn’t take on board any further powers they are not entitled to.”