Positive about disabled people

Not mentioned on any council or public authority or community websites, only this one, is that potential purchasers of residential Sovereign Harbour property need to know in advance that the annual flood defence and harbour charge payable by them is not levied anywhere else in Britain or Europe or the world. A much wider geographical flood zone area than just Sovereign Harbour is involved, affecting  more than 17,000 homes as far as Bexhill, yet only 3,700 Sovereign Harbour residents (and subsequent owners) must pay the annual cost, nearly 260 in 2018. A recent Member of Parliament has stated publicly this is unfair and unjust. All business services including management companies and property developers are exempted. An additional covenant applies to owners of some South Harbour properties in the water feature precinct. In both cases, they are in addition to local council taxes, insurance, management fees and ground rents. 

Sovereign Harbour Gazette

The UK's Environmental Agency charges only Sovereign Harbour residents, no one else in the world, to live in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England

Sovereign Harbour Gazette (SHG) Eastbourne & SH Disability Association (ESHDA) Eastbourne Council Tax Wrongs Eastbourne  town profile
Emails Estate Rent Charge Integrated Council and NHS hopes links
Sovereign Harbour (SH) Sovereign Harbour Beaches S H Property Guidelines Sovereign Ward

By Keith A. Forbes and his wife Lois Ann Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk  Both disabled, they live in Eastbourne and write, administer and webmaster this website. Keith is a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and an activist for the elderly and disabled.

Sovereign Harbour North scene

Part of Sovereign Harbour

Introduction to Sovereign Harbour

For its history see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_Harbour. It is 2.5 miles east of Eastbourne on the A259 Pevensey Bay Road going to Bexhill-On-Sea and Hastings. There are several entities concerned,  Sovereign Harbour Limited (SHL) Company 02217605, of Carillion House, 64 Salop Street, Wolverhampton WV3 OSR, an owner; also Sovereign Harbour Waterfront Holdings Ltd (SHWHL), Company 4135080, at the same address, also an owner; and  Eastbourne Harbour Company Ltd (EHCL), Company 141203, also at the same address. Developed by Carillion, see https://www.carillionplc.com, also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carillion and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/01/10/government-says-drew-contingency-plans-carillions-collapse/ - also http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42656879 of January 12, 2018 and most recently http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42687032 and https://uk.yahoo.com/finance/news/apos-disaster-apos-hundreds-businesses-214448549.html both of which confirmed its liquidation. There was an extensive corporate portfolio before liquidation. It included being a major supplier to the UK government. It helped to maintain schools and hospitals and was also part of a consortium building the 56bn HS2 high-speed rail link.

Opened in 1993 by the late Princess Diana, it has  800 permanent berths, with some 3,000 yachts visiting each year. Premier Marinas later bought the development from Carillion (being probed by the financial watchdog, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42551817 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42595874). The four marinas border the separate harbours. The Outer Harbour is tidal, whilst the Inner, South, North and West Harbours are entered through two high capacity locks, both manned 24 hours, 365 days a year, providing access to the sea irrespective of the state of the tide. All the many streets in the four residential areas have overseas names from exotic places (for example, Bermuda) around the world. 

Premier Marina, which continues to manage it, see https://www.premiermarinas.com/uk-marina-locations/sovereign-harbour-marina-eastbourne, was later sold to the Blackrock UK Property Fund and most recently, on 12 May 2015 - see https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/en-gb/newsroom/press-releases/article/corporate-one/press-releases/wellcome-trust-acquires-premier-marinas-limited_GB -  was sold to the Wellcome Trust health/art/life entity, see https://wellcome.ac.uk/ plus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellcome_Trust plus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Wellcome plus https://wellcome.ac.uk/press-release/wellcome-trust-acquires-premier-marinas-limited-blackrock-uk-property-fund. Ownership of Sovereign Harbour by Premier Marinas and the Wellcome Trust means that all who own or long-lease property in Sovereign Harbour and their successors - but no one else among the 17,000 or so residents of the same flood zone area extending all the way to Bexhill, or in any other flood zone anywhere else in the UK or Europe or the world -  must presently pay annually a harbour charge known as the Estate Rent Charge - see www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/Estaterentcharge.htm - of the type found nowhere else on the world where there is a harbour, beaches, flood zone and littoral drift.  

The Wellcome Trust, headquartered in London, said to be the world's largest charity (but not charitable to the residents of Sovereign Harbour because they pay a Wellcome Trust-approved Environmental charge found nowhere else in the UK or Europe or the world) was created in 1936 by the will of Sir Henry Wellcome and its sole trustee is The Wellcome Trust Limited, a private company limited by guarantee. 

Premier Marinas/Wellcome Trust ownership includes the Sovereign Harbour Village harbour-front area with its restaurants, bars and other business services but not the adjacent The Crumbles shopping centre (under separate ownership) that benefits the Sovereign Harbour community, all other parts of Eastbourne and Polegate and as far east as Bexhill-on-Sea with its large branch of ASDA, a range of high street-type shops and until 2018 a multi-screen cinema.

Given its private status, the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Trust, Premier Marinas or its group companies. However, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) applies where the latter does not. The coverage of the Environmental Information Regulations is greater than that of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. EIR 2004 implements the European Council Directive 2003/4/CE on public access to environmental information in the UK. The Directive in turn has at its source the Aarus Convention. The main objective of the regulations is encapsulated in Regulation 4 of the EIR which requires the relevant data holder to engage in a proactive exercise to make the information available for inspection by "electronic means" which inevitably requires the data to be made publicly available online or via an electronic device such as a computer and or a computer terminal. A principal obligation placed on holders of Environmental Information is public electronic dissemination. Environmental information includes information about air, water, sea, beaches, soil, flora, fauna, energy, noise, waste and emissions. Environmental Information also includes information about decisions, policies and activities that affect the environment. 

Thus, Under a CJEU ruling, The Wellcome Trust, its subsidiary Premier Marinas and SHT, as well as the SHT's CIC, by virtue of their Sovereign Harbour-related involvement, must all now all now be deemed public authorities (even through in another context they may be private companies). Equally, the Environmental Authority, Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council also qualify. The Sovereign Harbour Residents Association may also be in that group The Information Commissioner under the EIR 2004 Act is responsible for dealing with complaints related to EIR.

1. This will be a better place once the following wrongs in (3) below are righted by The Wellcome Trust, see https://wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/.

Presently, due to the following, in terms of real value for money in overall expenditure for management fees, council taxes, Estate Rent charge, beaches concerns and more, it offers limited investment value and 4/10 in value for money. All who live here as owners or long-leaseholders incur the following. Some are  distinctly unusual and likely to some unpalatable.  Overall, they mean presently that  Sovereign Harbour advantages are outweighed by its disadvantages.

2. Buying property costs and limitations

See S H Property Guidelines. Often with insufficient upfront information.  For months now, there have been more properties available than buyers. Some may not have increased in value or by much since first built.  Some asking prices are higher than when first built or last sold, but others are presently being offered for less than paid when first built or bought. Not generally known by newcomers or passed on to new buyers or renters is that many properties stipulate in the fine pint of their lease or purchase documents that apartments or flats cannot be sublet or rented out. Yet many are, putting their lessees or owners at risk. Frequently, when properties bought the cost of their annual council taxes are not mentioned, there is no mention that annual harbour charges (the biggest single controversial culprit) are passed on from buyer to successor buyer, annual management fees and ground rents if also applicable are not specified. Some ground rents may rise appreciably. The law of declining returns has now begun to bite and only when harbour charges - unique in all the world, nowhere else has them - are removed, lease lengths are automatically extended  for appropriate properties, with some that are leasehold - such as those for 999 years - made freehold. When these and other changes described above and below are made, more properties stand a better chance of increasing in prices and becoming better investments.

3. Management fees

They vary considerably but are in 2017 estimated to average 2,000 a year per dwelling. These are charged by the developers or owners of each apartment building or development. What makes them much more significant is that these developers are also the businesses on the sea side of Atlantic and Pacific Avenues that own the private beaches in front of their developments, charge their clients for their annual estate rent charge/harbour costs as described below but despite their beaches being private encourage the public at large, not just their clients, to use and abuse the beaches at no cost while charging only their clients. 

4. Council Taxes

See Eastbourne Council Tax Wrongs  Substantially higher than the national and other Eastbourne  average, with the Sovereign Harbour average estimated to be Council Tax Band E costing over 2,000 a year for a 240,000 750 square foot apartment of say 750 square feet with no land or garage of its own in most cases. The cost is 35% ore more higher than a magnificent 35 million multi-roomed Band G palace or mansion in central London. If you have a sea or harbour view you pay for it twice, first in market price which is acceptable and normal, but here also in Council Tax banding.

5. Estate Rent Charge

250 a year in 2017

The legal mandate authorizing the charge is the "Sovereign Harbour Beaches (Sea Defences) Deed 2001." 

It is Imposed on residents of  Sovereign Harbour alone, no other of its UK harbours, by Premier Marinas, owned by The Wellcome Trust's (see https://wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/ See Estate Rent Charge. Often referred to as harbour charge). Payable only by residents who own or lease their flats or terraced or other homes in the Sovereign Harbour area. The annual estate rental charge - nearly 250 in 2017 per household - is in addition to management fees, council taxes, ground rents, insurances and more.

Even even when residents are disabled, do not themselves use the harbour, do not own or operate a boat, but merely look at the harbour; and even when they cannot see the harbour at all but live on the other (beach) side of it, they still have to pay the charge. Yet visitors pay nothing to use Sovereign Harbour's promenades and beaches that cannot be classed as private because they offer many leisure opportunities to the general public. Even the beach frontages owned not by any local residents but solely by the area's property developers up to the high water mark are open to the public and are very popular with dog walkers. They include the majority who are not Sovereign Harbour residents but live either elsewhere in the Eastbourne town area or further and bring their dogs here deliberately because they know the beaches here, although within the Eastbourne Sovereign Ward town area, have none of the same restrictions or responsibilities or accountabilities to dog owners that occur on Eastbourne town beaches. Sovereign Harbour residents with properties overlooking the beaches are furious about this, especially when they see dogs fouling the beach area with no owner wanting to pick up the mess, or letting their dogs off their leashes. Some dog walkers have up to six dogs. There ought to be a legal way to either totally exclude non-resident members of the public from using these developer-owned beachfront areas for any purpose including walking, dog walking and cycling, or making all non-resident visitors to Sovereign Harbour who walk, dog walk and cycle pay a portion of the Estate Rent charge, instead of residents alone having to pay it but getting nothing back for it. 

The Estate Rent Charge is a wrong that needs to be righted. The Environment Agency helped cause and is the principal beneficiary of the charge. The Environment Agency, local councils and their councillors, local community groups and current Member of Parliament Mr Stephen Lloyd have not acted to right the wrong. For over 17 years of the Estate Rent Charge, only the 3,700 or so Sovereign Harbour residents, not any businesses, have been legally required to pay it, not any of the 17,000 or so other property owners and businesses beyond Sovereign Harbour whose homes are also in the same flood zone area but have never been asked and are not legally required to pay it at all.

6. Beware of Places with an Estate Rent Charge, like Sovereign Harbour

7. Repeal of all unfair-to-residents Sovereign Harbour-related legislation is  sought

Repeal of this Act is sought

This includes the Sovereign Harbour Beaches (Sea Defences) Deed 2001, if that also qualifies for repeal. 

It is possible to apply to repeal an Act. See https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/acts/. Changes to Acts:  Future changes to the law happen through the passing of another Act or delegated legislation. An Act can also be repealed so that its provisions no longer apply. Parliamentary committees examine UK laws and recommend the removal of out of date legislation. But this will require the cooperation and input of all estate charge/harbour charge residents, those who represent them, their local councillors, others who may be affected and Member of Parliament Stephen Lloyd.

See https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/process_of_repealing_acts and Visit the Law Commission website: www.lawcom.gov.uk 

Some other Acts that have been repealed. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Repealed_United_Kingdom_Acts_of_Parliament 

8. Flood Plain Insurance required

Because developers pressed their demands to build on land deemed to be in a flood plain and there were none or insufficient objections, they were allowed to proceed. We, the freeholders or long-leaseholders now pay the price in required floodplain insurance on contents of properties.

9. Prison or military base-like treeless and uninviting environment

Unlike all other seaside and marina places both at home and abroad made even more attractive scenically by appropriate trees planted by local authorities along streets and roads, or fronting beaches or on pavements or sidewalks, Sovereign Harbour is completely treeless. And with deep mounds of gravel in many places, instead of looking picturesque and attractive to live in, make the main and other Sovereign Harbour streets and their buildings look more like a military base or large prison camp.

Sovereign Harbour North beach

Keith Forbes photo. Note the complete lack of any trees or shrubs in front of the apartment units. Not an enticement to buy, quite the opposite. 

Trees in a seaside area, sadly not in Sovereign Harbour

Trees in a seaside area but sadly not in Sovereign Harbour

10. Sovereign Harbour beaches and harbour walkways are constantly abused

See Sovereign Harbour Beaches. They are not included in any of Eastbourne's beaches with the latter's' facilities, benches and dog regulations and more. Presently, Sovereign Harbour's North and South beaches, unlike all those Eastbourne beaches, have no facilities, no benches, no life-saving apparatus, no life guards. They are privately owned up to the high water mark by the properties opposite them but this is deliberately or routinely ignored by non-resident strangers. The walkway between the developments and the sea, intended for pedestrians only, are constantly abused by mostly non-resident cyclists, some of whom expect spectators to get out of their way. The beaches, land between the beaches and walkway and the walkway itself are also often abused by dog owners whose dogs often foul the area and whose owners often do not pick up and dispose of the mess. People who live in Eastbourne proper have told this author that they come here to do what they cannot do in Eastbourne, let their dogs off leashes and let them roam and poop without fear of prosecution. It completely spoils the beaches for many local residents, who have complained in vain to date. Authorities and community groups have declined to tackle the situation. In October 2017 the Eastbourne Borough Council approved new restrictions requiring dogs on leashes at all times on the walkways surrounding Sovereign Harbour but Sovereign Harbour beaches are again excluded from the Council's directive.

These beaches are legally, geographically and physically in the town of Eastbourne's Sovereign Ward area and residents pay their council and council-tax-related taxes to both Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex Borough Council. This surely should mean that the present arrangement whereby the Pevensey Bay entity that presently exclusively both controls these beaches at the behest of the Sovereign Harbour Trust and Environment Agency and gets 3,700 local residents (but no one else) to pay for the flood defences that also cover a much wider area involving more than 17,000 residents all the way to Bexhill, should be abolished, with these beaches at long last fully incorporated into Eastbourne's listing of public town beaches. While the general public continues to freely use and abuse them and this is encouraged by the beach owners  they should not be considered as private beaches but should be forced by the councils authorities concerned to be be re-classified as public beaches. In the meantime, Sovereign Harbour beachfront area residents are not getting value for money for the beachfront flood  defence and harbour defences they alone, nowhere else in the UK or Europe or the world, are required to pay to the Environment Agency.

11. Road and Traffic problems

Sovereign Harbour has more road traffic roundabouts that slow traffic per square mile than anywhere else in Britain or Europe or the world. Sovereign Harbour North has five roundabouts in less than a mile along the length of Pacific Avenue alone; another roundabout with four different exists to the Waterfront and Sovereign Harbour Shopping Centre stores; and more roundabouts along Atlantic Avenue and nearby. Eastbourne to the west, On Pacific Avenue, a normally clear road is now clogged with cars parked there immediately outside the new development at the north end of Sovereign Harbour. (One visitor from the USA wondered if the eight new dwellings there in four buildings comprised a new prison). More roundabouts at Polegate and beyond are maddening to visitors from the USA and elsewhere. Traffic is invariably heavy and waits can be long.

12. Parish Council plans resurrected

The  idea has been brought up again.  But how will it help to improve things? Will it enable residents to get better value for money? Will it help residents to solve long-standing local problems? In October 2008 hopes about this were quoted in the Daily Mail newspaper by disgruntled residents. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1079185/Angry-charges-living-marina-residents-creating-parish-council.html .They were also quoted as complaining about having, despite being freeholders not leaseholders, to pay maintenance charges. Have they already complained about this directly to the Law Reform Committee which has announced it is looking into matters of this nature and seeks complaints? Or do they seek a new entity to help them with it? If deemed appropriate in principle, it (if it follows the pattern of other community councils) would replace the present Sovereign Harbour Residents Association (as in fact the latter proposed in 2008, not be in addition to it. Or would it merely be yet another unique charge for Sovereign Harbour residents? It is been claimed by those who want the new community or parish council that in other areas of East Sussex the average cost of a parish or community council is (only) 60 annually per household. But it is well known that in certain parts of the UK (for example, Scotland) community councils where they exist are at no cost to residents, are paid for entirely by their local councils. For further information see https://www.scottishruralparliament.org.uk/resources/community-councils/. From the information available there and elsewhere it appears most Scottish councils allocate up to 400 pounds a year to each council including a provision for funding of their respective websites. Here in Sovereign Harbour, there could well be some serious objections to the creation of a new parish or community council if, on top of the extra charges they alone, no one else in the UK, currently pay for the harbour charge and if they live in the South Harbour vicinity, the Water Feature charge, they also have to pay 60 a year or anything at all. 

However, if the community stands to benefit there are some very valid reasons why the idea has merit. What was particularly sad about the referendum on this in late 2008 - 10 years ago - was the nasty antagonism between the two councils that opposed the plan and the Sovereign Harbour Residents Association that campaigned against it. They should have stepped aside and let people decide on the pros and cons instead of being so adamant. Also worthy of thought is whether any referendum should be deemed by residents to be renegotiable after a period of time ranging from 3-10 years. If they feel this way then to be consistent they should also agree that the recent Brexit and Scottish Independence referenda should be renegotiated instead of being expected to last a lifetime....

13. Perhaps significantly....

Sovereign Harbour, despite being classed by its promoters as an international destination, perhaps in view of all the above is not on the list of places to visit on the websites of the Eastbourne .Borough Council or East Sussex County Council, both of which have jurisdiction.

Sovereign Harbour North

Photos by the authors

Sovereign Harbour vessels at North Harbour marina

Keith also writes, updates and publishes

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Written, administered and web-mastered by

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Keith A. Forbes and Lois A Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk  
2018. Revised: January 18, 2018