Harbour bosses should step down, business owners say

Fiona and Robert Boyce by the Littlehampton Ferry entrance in Pier Road, Littlehampton
Fiona and Robert Boyce by the Littlehampton Ferry entrance in Pier Road, Littlehampton

Two business owners based on the river have said those in charge of Littlehampton Harbour should resign.

Robert and Fiona Boyce, who run Littlehampton Yacht Club and own the Littlehampton Ferry, called for Harbour Board chairman Philip Bush and harbourmaster Billy Johnson to step down after an incident on Good Friday.

The couple claimed they were told by the harbour board they did not have enough insurance to run the ferry, 15 minutes before they were due to launch, causing them to lose a day’s income.

Mr Boyce said: “They need to put the future of the harbour and the economic future of the town as a priority.”

Mr Johnson said the board had received an official complaint about this and would be investigating it.

The couple also felt a recent increase in the harbour dues for leisure users by 11 per cent, coupled with a proposal to impose charges on their ferry passengers, would seriously damage their business.

They submitted an appeal to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to get the harbour due increase overturned, and Mr Johnson said the board would ‘of course co-operate with any review’.

Mrs Boyce said: “We are here investing our money, trying to make the harbour a better place, specifically the west bank, but everything meets a brick wall.”

Mr Johnson said there were no plans for a ferry passenger charge ‘at present’ but it was a ‘way of recouping lost revenue’ and not passing the cost of increased mooring fees to the ratepayer.

Recently, a judge ruled in favour of the Boyces that the harbour board had been incorrectly charging dues on pontoons. As a result, Littlehampton Yacht Club, Littlehampton Marina and Arun Yacht Club have sought a settlement of £82,250. The harbour board made them an offer of £42,000, a board report stated.

Mr Bush was reappointed chairman at a meeting on Monday after no-one else stood for the role.