WEST Sussex County Council has rubber stamped a £314,000 loan to pay for a new boat for Littlehampton’s harbour team.
The application was given the green-light by the county council’s cabinet member for finance, councillor Michael Brown, last week after the final deadline to oppose the plan was passed.
It is now hoped the cash will be put towards a new multi-purpose vessel to replace the harbour’s aging boat and usher in a new era of prosperity for the town’s riverfront.
The news has come as a welcome start to 2015 for Littlehampton’s Harbour Master, Billy Johnson, who said the harbour board had been working closely with the council on the deal.
“I am delighted that the harbour board has chosen to invest in the harbour as a key part of the town,” he said. “The vessel will increase standards of safety, aid continued commercial shipping operations at the Tarmac asphalt plant and provide an in-house dredge and infrastructure maintenance capability that will be available to other river users.”
He added: “This news is really great for the harbour as a whole because it means we can work more independently to maintain the river and keep it safe for those using it.”
The current boat, Jumna, is about 29 years old and has ‘reached the end of her operational life’, Mr Johnson said.
Ordinarily, the harbour board would have borrowed cash directly from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB).
However, due to changes in legislation, that removed restrictions on local authorities on lending, the PWLB will no longer lend money to the harbour board directly – which prompted the appeal to the county council.
The loan would be paid back over a 20-year period, with the harbour board funding this through its operational income rather than adding to the annual precept levied on the county council and Arun District Council.
The loan would also be secured against the assets of the harbour board to ‘mitigate the risk of the board losing its commercial contract with Lafarge Tarmac’, the county council papers said.
The loan still needs to be finalised. However, once all the small print is agreed, Mr Johnson hopes that a new vessel could be bought by spring.