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By Keith A. Forbes and his wife Lois Ann Forbes. 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.
Owners or long-leaseholders, past, present and future of the 3,700+ residential homes in Sovereign Harbour and their successors, have to pay, annually not just once, for the cost of this littoral or foreshore flood defence scheme that surrounds the harbour, Eastbourne and well to the southeast of Eastbourne, about nine miles east and all the way to Bexhill-on-Sea.
When buying or leasing, they are covenanted to accept it as a condition of sale. Properties cannot be sold until this annual charge is paid. Steps are taken by the Sovereign Harbour Trust to record and protect this charge with the Land Registration authority.
A recent local Member of Parliament has said publicly this extra cost is unfair, unjust and should be revoked.
All residential and commercial property owners or long-lease holders in Eastbourne, East Sussex or anywhere else in the rest of the UK or Europe and the world.
Sovereign Harbour residents who are Directors/Trustees of the Sovereign Harbour Trust. They include one of the county councillors of the Eastbourne Borough Council - a resident of Sovereign Harbour - and the similarly jurisdictional East Sussex County Council.
All businesses including developers of properties in Sovereign Harbour that which residents who live there, and beyond Sovereign Harbour but in the same flood zone. Commercial entities include those who own the railway services and roads passing through the area.
It is the only place not only in the whole of the UK but also in Europe and the rest of the world which charges its residents living on its privately-run estate an Estate Rent Charge as ever-increasing annual sum. Yet it allows the general public, to the considerable and increasing annoyance of its private residents, unrestricted access at no cost at all to all non-residents, to access all its walkways, pathways and beach-area land. This includes all Eastbourne residents, tourists visiting the Eastbourne area by public transport or car, and persons who seasonally or year-round occupy hundreds of caravans in the nearby caravan sites of Pevensey Bay Holiday Park, Bay View Park and Grey Tower Caravan Park in the nearby Pevensey Bay area. It is also the only place in the world which has this charge on roads accessible by public transport buses.
What is not said (but should be) on estate agents websites marketing each Sovereign Harbour property is that only residents and future purchasers or leaseholders of their residential property are legally required to pay this environmental charge. It is not just a harbour charge but one charged nowhere else in the world. It requires all Sovereign Harbour freeholders and leaseholders to pay nearly £260 a year so that the Environmental Agency can operate a unique (but grossly unfair) and expensive regional sea defence scheme (applicable nowhere else) that operates not only in front of Sovereign Harbour but also as far as Bexhill, 8 miles away by sea. Only the 3500 or so Sovereign Harbour freeholders and leaseholder pay this cost, none of the 13,500 or so freeholders and leaseholders of Pevensey Bay and Bexhill do. Yet this fact is omitted from all all estate agency websites marketing Sovereign Harbour properties in defiance of 2004 legislation requiring them to show this.
Not stating the fact shown above and below on estate agents websites that only Sovereign Harbour residents in the whole of the rest of the UK, EU and the world have to pay this is a serious omission tantamount to misrepresentation.
Nowhere else in coastal Britain, Europe or other coastal part of the world does this unique Harbour Charge occur. Not even where there are flood zones, harbours and their coastal residential development, and littoral drifts or the very similar Longshore Drift (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longshore_drift), This has been thoroughly researched. This has never been stated by any local councils or public authorities or Sovereign Harbour Residents Association. In no other shingle or pebble beach, harbour and marina area in the UK or Europe or the world do local authorities ask or make their residents pay for flood defences that go far beyond just this local community.. Other areas in UK and worldwide with shingle beaches include Alby, Sweden; Birding's Flat, New Zealand; Brighton; Broomhill Sands; Camber Sands; Cooden Beach (See Rother District Council Coastal Protection at http://www.rother.gov.uk/article/1470/Coastal-protection) ; Chesil Beach; Dungeness; Eastbourne (which should include the two Sovereign Harbour beaches north and south, but do not, presently); Hawar Islands, Bahrain; Hastings; Herne Bay; Nice, France; Osmussaar, Estonia; Pevensey Bay (see Rother District Council Coastal Protection at http://www.rother.gov.uk/article/1470/Coastal-protection); Seaford Head Beach; Slapton Sands; St. Leonard's on Sea; The Stade; Sorve Peninsular, Estonia; Srce, Croatia.
Only in Sovereign Harbour, nowhere else in the very few places left in the UK or Europe or the world where there still is an Estate Rent Charge, is the latter so expensive. Where there still are such charges they are very low, nominal, £10 or less annually. But here they are the total rip-off sum of nearly £260 annually.
Whether a property is worth £170,000 or £800,000 the charge is virtually the same. It is based on the number of Sovereign Harbour residential households, not their value. In other parts of the UK, Europe and the world, charges (or taxes) are graduated, based on assessed or market value. Why has this flagrant unfairness been allowed to continue when Council Taxes have always, since 1992, been apportioned based to at least some extent on a property's value?
Yet Premier Marinas elsewhere - all also part of The Wellcome Trust - do not have any similar estate rental charge. There is no equivalent Estate Rental Charge at any of the the other marinas owned by Premier Marinas which is owned by The Wellcome Trust. :
The annual charge gives no exclusivity at all to Sovereign Harbour residents who alone have to pay it. Despite this cost, they do not get residents-only use of a harbour or beachfront walkway as is the case in all other Estate Rental Charge or private estate areas in the UK or worldwide. Instead, the Sovereign Harbour Trust and its so-called community interest company adds insult to injury by approving or allowing, at no cost to them at all, all non-residents - members of the general public, all 500,000 of them in 2018, including those who caravan at Pevensey Bay Holiday Park, Bay View Park and Grey Tower Caravan Park in the nearby Pevensey Bay area. - to walk with or without their dogs. leave their litter and dog messes and cycle on Sovereign Harbour pathways and walkways and make other use of the harbour facilities. Members of the public, not Sovereign Harbour residents. are by far and away the principal users of Sovereign Harbour facilities, pathways, walkways and paths but do not pay any of the cost, only residents do. Harbour residents, who alone pay for and thus should be getting some measure of environmental harbour exclusivity, get none. This blatant unfairness of The Wellcome Trust, Premier Marinas, its local entities, Sovereign Harbour Trust, all developers in Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council needs to be recorded world-wide.
Having this Estate Rent Charge as an uncommon burden of a Sovereign Harbour residential freehold or leasehold property that will continue for any new leaseholder or freeholder will seriously effect the possibility of a sale of the property, or seriously reduce its value, or delay the transfer of the property, or cause additional legal costs to complete, or create all four such problems.
No other local authority in the world would allow this from a private trust, but our Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council local authorities not only do but also have a councillor sitting as a board member on the private trust. (On 15th February 2014 a local councillor then involved questioned its fairness and asked publicly for a council vote, see http://cllr-warner.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/fairness-for-sovereign-harbour.html but it was not acted on in an equitable way to council constituents.
See http://www.sovereignharbourtrust.co.uk/estate_rent_charge.asp. It comprises the three parts shown immediately below:
It was calculated as follows:
What do Sovereign Harbour residents who have to pay for it get for it?
Nothing. In return for what we/they have pay nearly £290 per dwelling per year to the Sovereign Harbour Trust's Community Interest Company shown below. we/they get:
No Insurance against flooding
No other kind of insurance.
No privacy for sea or harbour views in front of or near each property. Visitors who are not Sovereign Harbour residents can walk or cycle past, their dogs are often not on a leach and can go into the communal gardens and make a mess. Visitors can also stand outside each building and use BT free zones.
No discounts offered by the Sovereign Harbour Trust or its Community Interest Company at any Sovereign Harbour restaurant or shop or facility.
No discount of council taxes from the Eastbourne Borough Council or East Sussex County Council, both of whom already charge far more in council taxes for a typical 2 bedroom Sovereign Harbour flat than for 3 bedroom or more properties in other parts of Eastbourne with market values worth much more,
No Community Interest benefits or advantages of any kind. Instead of any of the latter, they instead have to pay an Estate Harbour charge not levied by any Community Interest Company or entity anywhere else in the UK, Europe or the world.
A private limited company but by the nature of the work it does in environmental matters, also a (hybrid) public authority under Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
Various names are used for it, such as the harbour charge, estate rent charge, but it is a flood defence charge.
The entities that sealed, signed and executed it on 26 August 2001 were:
The Environment Agency
Sovereign Harbour Limited (SHL).
Eastbourne Harbour Company Limited..
Carillion Construction Limited, see https://www.carillionplc.com/about-us/our-leadership/the-board/- originally Tarmac, developed the marina through a wholly owned subsidiary, Sovereign Harbour Ltd (SHL) and operated it through another company, Sovereign Harbour Marina Ltd. Premier Marinas later bought the development from Carillion (which in January 2018 was being probed by the financial watchdog, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42551817, also http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42595874 and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/01/10/government-says-drew-contingency-plans-carillions-collapse/, and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42656879. Now collapsed, in involuntary liquidation.
Sovereign Harbour Marina Limited. .
Sovereign Harbour Trust.
Since then. the charge above has remained it effect, increasing significantly in cost since its original £78 a year cost in 2004, believed to be in line with the Retail Price Index.
The SHT, without any referral to or the consent of residents of Sovereign Harbour, got all local and public authorities to approve and sign - renegotiate - it.
The revision is for a period of 25 years from 2004 as a legal liability for Sovereign Harbour homeowners.
The Estate Rent Charge is The Sovereign Harbour Trust’s only income. But it is not used to protect the welfare and property of Sovereign Harbour residents, the only people who have to pay. The stated objectives of the Trust are to preserve the environment but in this context the environment does not mean either individual Sovereign Harbour residences or the development as a whole. The primary benefit must be for the public, not members of a specific group, such as the residents of Sovereign Harbour. So why are only Sovereign Harbour residents legally obliged to pay it? It seems clear that the objectives of the Trust do not involve protection of the property and welfare of Sovereign Harbour residents who alone are paying for it.
Only another legal Act of Parliament can stop or change it to right the wrong.
Claimed legal authority for the charge is the "Sovereign Harbour Beaches (Sea Defences) Deed 2001."
But those who have to pay it are only 3097 Sovereign Harbour residents in the one-mile-wide area of Sovereign Harbour, not the estimated 14,000 + residents living in all of Pevensey Bay, east of and beyond Sovereign Harbour, for over 9 miles far as Cooden Beach, Bexhill on Sea.
The board meets 4 times per year or as otherwise agreed from time to time. Its task is primarily to collect and distribute rent charges due from residential owners within the Sovereign Harbour development. Current board members (of both the SHT and its Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) Community Interest Company) are:
It was emphasized to those appointed in 2017 that their duties on appointment are owed exclusively to the CIC and the importance of avoiding any conflict of interest. A recent SHT meeting noted the Expiry of the E A agreement in 2025, and this item will continue to be kept under review.
Company Secretary: Cripps Secretaries Ltd, since May 2002. Number 22 Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 8AS.
Its website contravenes present requirements and needs improving, as follows:
The Eastbourne Harbour Act of 1980 left the developers, either the Duke of Devonshire, or successor companies, with a legal obligation in perpetuity to remedy any depletion of shingle along the stretch of coast between Sovereign Harbour and Cooden Beach at their own cost. It was clearly expected or intended from this that those organisations who would commercially benefit from the sale of the land and the development of the marina and surrounding residential properties would contribute to any additional maintenance of sea defences required to compensate for the effects of the Harbour. But instead, the costs became payable solely by the residents who bought their property from the developers, not the developers themselves.
The SHT website above, on its front page, states "was set up to preserve and protect the environment along the beach frontage in front of Sovereign Harbour" and, to accentuate this, has a graphic that shows precisely the area of Sovereign Harbour. In defining the SW Charge it states "the Trust covenants with the homeowner to apply the SW charge charge towards the cost of execution of the Littoral Drift obligations and and improvement of the beach and sea defences within the vicinity of the Harbour and towards Harbour Maintenance or any one or more of such objects." In defining the Marina Charge it states the Marina Costs "are all costs and expenses reasonably and properly incurred in connection with or incidental to the cleansing, repair and maintenance of the Harbour and its Waterways."
The precise wordings of the SW Charge and Marina Charge stipulate just the Harbour and its Waterways (inner harbours). The SHT and its Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) Community Interest Company (CIC) claim the legal authority to charge only the 3,700 or Sovereign Harbour residents in the less than one kilometre-wide area of Pevensey Bay, not the 17,000 or so other residents in the exactly the same flood zone of but in the nine kilometre-wide area rest of Pevensey Bay, all the way to Cooden Bay in Bexhill, for year-round flood defence work undertaken by or on behalf of Pevensey Coastal Defence Ltd (PCDL) - see http://www.pevensey-bay.co.uk.
PCDL was given, not by residents or with their approval but without them being consulted, a 25 year contract being signed on 1st June 2000. PCDL actually undertakes none of the work, having subcontracted all obligations to the four shareholders, who are Westminster Dredging Co. Ltd; Dean & Dyball; Mackley Construction; and Mouchel Group. Each of these PCDL shareholders has a contract with PCDL, backed up by a similar direct agreement with the UK Government's Environment Agency, which would allow the Agency to continue to maintain the defences should PCDL fail to perform.
Only Sovereign Harbour residents are paying, not once but twice, at the insistence of the SHT, its CIC and the Environment Agency for the less than one mile wide beach frontage area of Sovereign Harbour. In all other parts of the UK the Environment Agency's work is paid for out of general taxes. But in here in Sovereign Harbour all homeowners also have to pay this Estate Rental Charge. In the rest of the eight-nine kilometre area of Pevensey Bay with its 14,000 plus residents, plus in the rest of the entire UK including all other harbours and marinas with littoral drift areas, the Environment Agency makes no additional charge whatsoever for its any of its flood defences. Nor do any other harbours or marinas in other other part of the world.
It is claimed the arrangement marks a first for the area, a unique combined public sector and private sector arrangement - see http://www.pevensey-bay.co.uk/ppp.html - yet nowhere else in the UK or Europe or the world has it and no other residents, only those of Sovereign Harbour, have to pay it.
In no other organization or local government anywhere else in the world does this Estate Rent Charge/Harbour Charge apply!
This charge is its only business, otherwise it is dormant. Financial information shows it up to 2014 but a zero balance for 2015 and beyond, likely because the SHT established the Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) Community Interest Company (CIC), with all the work involved in the harbour charge now organized by that latter entity. In the Profit and Loss account of the CIC for the year ended 30 September 2017 it paid Premier Marinas Ltd £103,735.
Nowhere in the Sovereign Harbour Beaches (Sea Defences) Deed 2001 does it state that only Sovereign Harbour residents must pay the charge.
The Sovereign Harbour Trust makes the charge payable as a compulsory demand (to Sovereign Harbour residents only) via its Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) CIC. The latter does so by sending its demand by letter to each qualifying Sovereign Harbour residents according to their "unique plot number." There is no open-to-the public record of any advance knowledge being given to the Sovereign Harbour community at large about the planned formation of this "Community Interest Company."
The Sovereign Harbour Trust, via its Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) CIC contracts with Pevensey Coastal Defence Ltd (PCDL) - see http://www.pevensey-bay.co.uk/index.html. A private limited company but by the nature of the work it does in environmental matters, also a (hybrid) public authority under Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) based at Westminster House, Crompton Way, Segensworth West, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 5SS to do all the work. Pevensey Bay extends nearly nine miles east, all the way to Cooden Bay, Bexhill. Sovereign Harbour itself is less than one mile long, the smallest by far and westernmost part of Pevensey Bay.
Present directors/officers/officials of PCDL are not shown on its website but according to Companies House are, with their correspondence addresses::
The SHT via its Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) CIC takes action to rectify the non registration (at the Land Registry) of Estate Rent Charges. It asks the Land Registry to note the Estate Rent Charge is payable by the Sovereign Harbour unit-holders involved and to record if it has not been paid. The Land Registry records the entry as similar to an unpaid mortgage, meaning that those who do not pay it are effectively unable to sell their Sovereign Harbour property. There has not yet been any recorded protest to this procedure by any local county or borough counselor or member of Parliament or community group, nor has the Land Registry itself ever questioned it, even though the Estate Rental Charge is payable by Estate area Sovereign Harbour residents only but it is not private to them, all other non-residents can walk or cycle and can take their dogs through all the beach and harbour area roads and walkways in the entire Estate area.
The Environment Agency objected to taxpayers from not within Sovereign Harbour and local councils having to bear the cost of containing the littoral drift ( but in no other parts of the world do any environmental authorities apply it). The Sovereign Harbour Trust states that funds received under the SW charge heading are applied under the terms of an agreement on the part of the Trust and the CIC with the Environment Agency, and the Sovereign Harbour Marina Company, as follows:
The payment to the Environment Agency is to be expended by them on the maintenance of Sea Defences, including Rock Revetment, as the Agency considers necessary to avoid tidal flooding.
The payment to the Marina Company is for such works as are considered necessary to maintain the outer harbour break water and associated structures, the inner and outer harbour and connecting locks, the West and North harbours, the harbour walls, bridges and associated structures and water ways. Harbour maintenance is to help the overall facility to drain the site quickly in the event of tidal or storm flooding.
It has been long hoped that councillors who represent us in the Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council would have wanted to object to and use their legal ability to stop the charge instead of approving it and with one of them joining the Board of Directors of the Sovereign Harbour Trust that that levies it.
So say various law firms and entities below:
This charge would never have been allowed to occur in the European Union. There, the property or council taxes of owners or lessees of those flats and related units are deemed a fair compensation for any recurring shingle relocation expenses. UK environmental law is based mostly on EC environmental law. Because of Brexit, all relevant UK laws are to be revised to match EC laws. Thus any laws relating to Sovereign Harbour that presently dictate how the present flood harbour dues must be paid only by Sovereign Harbour owners, no one else, should be revoked as soon as possible. See Brexit and UK Environmental Law at http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=9395f791-5b76-428e-a0ef-8b102a023243 and the Implications to the UK in Environmental Policy of Leaving the EU may be relevant, at https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/eu_referendum_environment.pdf.
In the European Union, in Coastal Management - as described by Wikipedia in https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastal_management - the European Code of Conduct for Coastal Zones - see http://campusdomar.es/en/docsobservatorio/european-code-of-conduct-for-coastal-zones-16121998/ and http://ec.europa.eu/environment/iczm/pdf/Model_Law.pdf - was issued by the European Council - see http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/ - from 1999. This document was prepared by the EU's Group of Specialists on Coastal Protection and underlies European Union legislation and practice. The Group of Specialists originated in 1995, pursuant to a decision by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, see https://www.coe.int/en/web/about-us/who-we-are?desktop=false. (See Member States of the Council of Europe at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Member_states_of_the_Council_of_Europe). It emphasized the need for integrated management and planning, especially when coastal areas continue to deteriorate. The Group proposed that the Council of Europe cooperate with the Coastal & Marine Union (EUCC) - see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastal_%26_Marine_Union_(EUCC) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - see http://www.unep.org/. This duly came about. In the absence of any specific references to European legislation in the UK's Environment Agency legislation or regulations affecting Sovereign Harbour, or Sovereign Harbour Trust or its wholly-owned subsidiary the Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) Community Interest Company that levies the charge only to all Sovereign Harbour Residents but no one else in the sea defence flood area, it appears that none of these European Code of Conduct for Coastal Zones European directives or management or local authority oversights ever applied to Sovereign Harbour, as they have long done uniformly throughout Europe. Had this been the case for Sovereign Harbour it would most likely have required no charge exclusively for Sovereign Harbour residents or at worst a uniformly wide and not specific to Sovereign Harbour alone residents charge applicable to all properties both commercial and residential in the flood area. This is why, in addition to being referred to the UK's Secretary of State for Environmental, Food & Rural Affairs as suggested below, the matter needs to be referred to the European Commission via our MEPs. The European Commission - see https://ec.europa.eu/commission/news_en - not only has an exclusive right to propose new environmental policy, but it also has a responsibility to ensure the implementation of European Union laws and environmental rules throughout the EU. Until Brexit occurs they surely continue to have overall jurisdiction over the vast majority of UK environmental laws and regulations.
Given its private status, the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to beneficial owner The Wellcome Trust, which owns Premier Marinas and its group companies and entities mentioned below.
But the EIR applies where the Freedom of Information Act 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.
Public Authorities Under the Human Rights Act 1998. See https://justice.org.uk/public-authorities-human-rights-act-1998/
S6 The Human Rights Act 1998 make it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with a person's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Thus S6 The Human Rights Act 1998 imposes a duty on all public authorities to act compatibly with the ECHR.
Definition of public authority: Any court or tribunal and any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature. However, in relation to a particular act, a person is not a public authority if the nature of the act is private, not public. Thus, under a Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling, even through in another context they may be classed as private companies, The Wellcome Trust, its subsidiary Premier Marinas and SHT, as well as the SHT's CIC, all by virtue of their Sovereign Harbour-related involvement that involves members of the public and charges them a fee or requires them to make payments under a public Act of Parliament, namely the Sovereign Harbour Beaches (Sea Defences) Deed, 2001, now all qualify as public authorities. Equally, the Environmental Authority, Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council also qualify. Surely a public authority cannot require by law some people - only Sovereign Harbour residents - to pay an Estate Rent Charge under the Sovereign Harbour Beaches (Sea Defences) Deed, 2001 but exempt all other 17,000 residents and all businesses in the nine mile area from having to pay it?
Thus The Wellcome Trust, its subsidiary Premier Marinas, its operating subsidiaries all used by members of the public who pay for their services and SHT, as well as the SHT's CIC, are all hybrid public authorities, unlike councils which are pure public authorities. (This raises some potentially significant other issues, such as which other local entities should or should not be deemed as hybrid public authorities. For example, doctors in general practice are public authorities as it relates to their National Health Service functions but not in relation to their private patients. And should the Sovereign Harbour Residents Association, in view of its wide-ranging mission statement potentially affecting all residents, also be a hybrid public authority?)
Not shown, but should be, on any estate agents websites for a particular property
This includes the Sovereign Harbour Beaches (Sea Defences) Deed 2001.
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
They include the Eastbourne Herald newspaper report of a wave of anger in protests of 23 January 2014, see http://www.eastbourneherald.co.uk/news/fury-over-rise-in-eastbourne-harbour-charges-1-5830122, on 15 February 2014 see http://cllr-warner.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/fairness-for-sovereign-harbour.html - a plea for fairness by then-Councillor Patrick Warner at a Council Meeting; on 24 February 2014 http://www.eastbourneherald.co.uk/news/wave-of-anger-from-harbour-residents-1-5891812; and 2 April 2015 at http://www.eastbourneherald.co.uk/news/chance-to-find-out-more-about-flood-defences-1-6663889. It led to a further storm of protests, which led to a visit from Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and this report of 20 March 2015 at https://www.eastbourneconservatives.org.uk/news/elizabeth-truss-mp-visits-sovereign-harbour and in January 2016 a paper from then-MP Caroline Ansell, then on the UK government's Environment Audit Committee, re the history, decisions, repercussions and gross miscarriage of justice of the flood harbour charge, see http://carolineansell.co.uk/sovereign-harbour-charge/ and. http://www.eastbournebuzz.co.uk/eastbourne-news.php?eastbourne-news-reports=2671&&Eastbourne-MP-Pledges-To-Fight-On-Over-Harbour-Fees. What was particularly significant is that our then-MP did not hesitate to say publicly that it was also her opinion that the annual charge was unfair and unjust. Since then there have been further angry complaints from residents. For one of the latest, 14 February 2017, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_UR-tbilGE&app=desktop.
The Sovereign Harbour Residents Association (SHRA) has met again and again to discuss this harbour charge - which has a 25 year contractual date - but has not to date been able to deal with it effectively. It has for many years made public its own ineffectual complaints about the unfairness of it -, see http://www.shra.co.uk/rentcharge.html.. It should have been objected to at the outset by both the SHRA and the two local council authorities concerned. In May 2017 the undersigned disabled journalist, then one of the new residents by long-leasehold of Sovereign Harbour offered to join the SHRA committee which had announced some of its members were withdrawing. He had earlier made it clear at a committee meeting that he believed the only way to tackle it effectively was to refer it to European Members of Parliament while we still can before Brexit takes effect, to see what they can do to challenge it under relevant European environmental and possibly human rights laws and if necessary via the world press. Invited to an August 2017 SHRA committee meeting was newly re-elected Member of Parliament Stephen Lloyd. Website www.stephenlloyd.org.uk. Email email@example.com. At that meeting, he listened to comments from SHRA committee members who then included the newcomer referred to who again expressed his belief that the only way to fight this charge was to go to Europe and beyond. Mr Lloyd did not raise any objection to the latter. But in early September 2017 while trying, on a personal basis, not on behalf of the SHRA, as a journalist - to question the validity of the harbour charge from the new beneficial owner and the overseas media he was told by another SHRA committee member he was interfering with SHRA committee business and if he did not cease would be reported to the committee. That latter threat caused the undersigned new committee member concerned to resign immediately in protest. It thus seems there was no intention or wish of the SHRA, as a group, to really want to resolve the matter or complain to the European Members of Parliament or the world media about it, even with this as possibly the only chance left of at last getting the harbour charge revoked.
In mid 2017, new appointments to the Sovereign Harbour Trust's so-called Community Interest Company formed by the Sovereign Harbour Trust, which levies and processes the charge respectively, include a (the second) former chairperson and a present committee member of the SHRA who is an Eastbourne Borough Council member. If this was done in hope it would lead to a reduction or cessation of the charge it has not succeeded to date, nor is it likely to.
It is misleading for any Sovereign Harbour entity representing residents to imply there is any hope that this injustice will be remedied by persuasion or legal means here in the UK. The fact of the matter is that the charge was sanctioned in a UK Act of Parliament. It also likely by-passed or side-stepped European and other international environmental laws. On 15th August 2017, in reply to this writer's Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 request, The Environment Agency's Tom Baker sent this writer a copy of the sealed, signed and executed Sovereign Harbour Beaches (Sea Defences) Deed of 2001. He also stated the SHRA have produced a comprehensive history of the deed and confirmed The Environment Agency has sought counsel advice on the validity of the charge and that it has been advised it is a legal charge.
What was referred to is its present exclusive right in Sovereign Harbour (nowhere else in Britain, nowhere else by any other Environmental Agency in any other part of the world), to require residents and their successors to pay the charge. To fight it would be an uphill, costly and useless legal battle that residents should not be asked to pay. It should have been resolved more than 17 years ago. Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council, whose councilors represent all in Sovereign Harbour who have to pay the charge, should have long ago led and paid for out of public funds if necessary the fight to have the charge dropped for the simple fact that nowhere else in the world where there are harbours and marinas do such charges exist, not even where similar littoral drifts occur. Councilors have not taken or offered to take such action to help cease this inequity. A former MP for Eastbourne - but not the present one - has publicly declared it unfair.
Given the lack of any remedial action to date on the part of The Wellcome Trust and its subsidiary Premier Marinas, the two local councils and the present local Member of Parliament it is not surprising that they and the town of Eastbourne is now beginning to get a very poor international image. With every road and street or quay in Sovereign Harbour North and South named not by accident but by design after an international place or town or city, much the criticism of Eastbourne for its victimized Sovereign Harbour residents will shortly come from those places, with more to follow later in 2018. There have also been a number of unfavorable comments from various places in the European Union and elsewhere, where no such similar penalties exist.
Of particular concern is the fact that when the leases of Sovereign Harbour (and other) flats are assigned or sold, the subsequent leaseholder cannot effectively challenge the fairness of the term. Currently, only the original leaseholder can effectively challenge a term under unfair terms law. Thus, at this time, we have live with the fact that not only do we uniquely have to pay the hated Estate Rent Charge but also those who buy our leases. This is because under section 62(5) of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, whether a term is fair is to be determined by “reference to all the circumstances existing when the term was agreed”. The purpose of the Law Commission's unfair terms project is to consider whether, each time a lease is assigned, this should be seen as creating a new contract between the landlord and leaseholder for the purposes of changing and improving the unfair terms law. The project reflects feedback to the Commission from stakeholders about many potentially unfair terms in leases, including ground rents which increase exponentially, fixed service charges and fees on assignment of leases. These types of terms in leases are currently unregulated and cannot be challenged by leaseholders under landlord and tenant law. However, it may be possible to use unfair terms law amendments to fill this gap. But it will be up to residents both collectively and likely individually to give appropriate details that will support their contentions. It is manifestly unfair to Sovereign Harbour residents that while many other areas of Eastbourne, Meads as merely one, now being marketed, offer flats at 999 years lease or similar, with manageable annual management fees and nominal or no ground rent, the great majority of Sovereign Harbour residents have far more expensive annual management fees, long leases of 120 years or less, ground rents often exceeding £120 annually. These areas should surely be of great concern to the Sovereign Harbour Residents Association, who should be representing us about this in accordance with its mission statement.
Now, the only possible way to stop this unfair and unjust charge is by going to Members of the European Parliament, to ask them to refer this to the European Commission and relevant European environmental and judicial agencies. If they are unwilling or unable to act, then appropriate American Canadian and key world media will be asked to investigate. Additionally, a complete alphabetical listing of all Sovereign Harbour internationally-named streets is being compiled. Where they coincide with overseas cities or towns or islands, their newspapers will be contacted. Those who complain should not hesitate to cite the local authorities and public authorities involved who have been complicit all long in this more than 14 years old outstanding matter.
Those who intend to make a submission should note carefully that the entities concerned who collectively make us pay or consent to the annual harbour charge may state that the Freedom of Information Act will not apply to them because they are listed as private companies. But that is irrelevant Because it applies where the Freedom of Information Act does not, a formal Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) complaint should be made. 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 Sovereign Harbour Trust, as well as the SHT's Community Interest Company, 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.
Keith also writes
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© 2019. Revised: May 6, 2019