Positive about disabled people

Not mentioned on any regional or local government or public authority or community websites, only this one, is that consumers thinking of owning or leasing a residential Sovereign Harbour property need to know beforehand that the annual flood defence and harbour charges they have to pay carry unrevealed additional liabilities. It  is a charge - not an insurance - not levied anywhere else in Britain or Europe or the world where there are other flood zones, harbours, marinas or beaches, not even in places with a similar littoral drift. Also, a much wider geographical flood zone area than just Sovereign Harbour is involved, affecting 17,000 homes as far as Bexhill yet unfairly, only the 3,700 or so Sovereign Harbour residents pay the cost, not any of the businesses including developers and managers of Sovereign Harbour residential and commercial properties, public and railway services in this same flood zone. Additionally, the liability for continued payment continues in perpetuity for future buyers of that property. A recent Member of Parliament has confirmed that it is unfair and unjust to charge Sovereign Harbour residents only.  It costs about 250 a year in 2017, in addition to local council taxes, necessary insurance, management fees and ground rents or long leases. An additional covenant applies to South Harbour residents whose properties are in the water feature precinct. They pay an annual water feature charge, about 305 a year in 2017.

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  town profile Council Tax Wrongs Emails
Integrated Council and NHS hopes links Sovereign Harbour (SH) Estate Rent Charge
S H Property Guidelines Sovereign Harbour Beaches SH Disability Association 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 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carillion. Opened in 1993 by the late Princess Diana, it has over 600 permanent berths, with some 3,000 yachts visiting each year. Premier Marinas later bought the development from Carillion. 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.  

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 early 2018 a multi-screen cinema.

The Wellcome Trust, headquartered in London, said to be the world's largest charity (except it is not charitable to the residents of Sovereign Harbour which it owns and for which 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. The Wellcome Trust is the parent undertaking of Premier Marinas Holdings Limited, a private company limited by shares, and its subsidiaries.

Given its private status, the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Trust, Premier Marinas or its group companies. However, because it does apply where the Freedom of Information Act does not, a formal Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) request was made by email on 17th October 2017 to Sovereign Harbour beneficial owner the Wellcome Trust, which now owns Premier Marinas. 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, at least by virtue of their Sovereign Harbour-related involvement, all now all qualify as 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 Information Commissioner under the EIR 2004 Act is responsible for dealing with complaints related to EIR.

As at November 13, 2017 no reply to this formal Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) request  has yet been received to the email sent by this writer on 17 October 2017. Not even an acknowledgement. It has failed to meet the 20 day deadline imposed by the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). This must now be reported. Before this request was submitted, an earlier Freedom of Information request, with fewer obligations was sent, in reply to which the Wellcome Trust stated its group of companies including Premier Marinas Holdings Ltd do not own or control either the Sovereign Harbour Trust or its Community Interest Company that applies the harbour charge. This writer then asked, in his follow-up 17th October 2017 Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) request," are you saying it is not the wish of both the Wellcome Trust and its subsidiary Premier Marinas that the Sovereign Harbour Trust and its subsidiary should apply the Sovereign Harbour charge? At whose wish then is that charge made? No reply. 

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/, the beneficial owner of Sovereign Harbour 

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

Imposed on behalf of The Wellcome Trust, see https://wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/

See Estate Rent Charge. Often referred to as harbour charge). Over and above management fees, ground rents and council taxes. Even even when they 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. Yet visitors who use the beaches, shopping and restaurant attractions pay nothing.

6. 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.

7. 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

8. 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.

9. 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, Polegate and beyond have roundabouts ad nauseam, maddening to visitors from the USA and elsewhere. Traffic is invariably heavy and waits can be long.

10. 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  
2017. Revised: November 14, 2017