Exciting developments for Bristol’s historic harbour

In February I gave an update on some of the projects in and around our harbour, about how we’re making it a more accessible space for everyone and financially self-sustaining. I’m pleased to be able to share more news on some exciting projects, after reflecting on the end of the harbour swimming pilot at the start this week while also touching on the recovery from the fire at Underfall Yard.

On 23 May, the High Court refused permission to apply for a Judicial Review of our decision to bring the Harbour fees and charges into line with other comparable harbours. We’re pleased that the judge found in our favour. This now means we are able to cover the costs of maintaining this important city asset, which had been taking half a million pounds a year from council services. The revised fees and charges for boats using the harbour have now been updated for the first time in two decades.

It also means we can introduce 70 new live aboard licences for those who want to stay on boats in our city’s harbour all year round. These will be issued annually to people who pay and agree to the license terms and conditions, on a first come first served basis. Some people had already expressed an interest through our survey of harbour users, so we’ll contact them. Others can reach the harbour office at harbour.office@bristol.gov.uk. This will help give boat dwellers much more security and let them access services, while keeping control to manage the harbour for everyone with the Harbour Authority.

More good news is that the Capricorn Quay project was granted planning permission at the start of May, meaning we can move ahead with plans to install another 32 new berths for boats and other new facilities. A contractor will be sought for this work as well as planting the new reed bed which will be another fantastic boost for ecology in the harbour.

The Western Harbour project will be tabled at the combined authority committee meeting in June to secure funding for the detailed masterplanning. This is a huge opportunity to move forward with the vision to protect heritage and ecology in this important area, while modernising transport and flood infrastructure. It will look to bring forward hundreds of homes in the spaces released by removing the flyovers in a city centre, sustainable location.

Finally, I can share that the Harbour Revision Order cabinet paper was paused so that the team could have more time to engage with people and let them know about the project. We’ll be writing to leaseholders and neighbours in the coming weeks. There is a statutory consultation period built into the process. Cabinet approval would just be the start of the 18 month long project to work with the Marine Management Organisation to update the last Order, which was completed in 1998.

The Underfall Yard Sluices have been providing Bristol with a means of regulating the water levels within our harbour since 1840. They are integral to how the harbour manages itself. In April’s cabinet meeting, we were able to approve £1.75 million worth of funding to refurbish the sluices, so that they can continue to protect our city for many years to come.

We’re getting the harbour’s governance arrangements ship shape and Bristol fashion so that it is financially sustainable, accessible and contributes to our wider aims of climate resilience and biodiversity.