Hopes have emerged this week of a rethink by Crown Estate Scotland (CES) of the rent levels demanded of Harris Marina after a local councillor revealed the damage the charges could do to the future of the development.
A source close to CES’s Chief Executive, Simon Hodge, said that a review of rents might be possible taking into account the Marina’s financial position, but no confirmation of a change has been confirmed.
Earlier in the week, Harris and South Lochs Councillor, John G Mitchell, revealed that the Marina’s development plans could be seriously undermined by rent levels he described as ‘punitive’, and which are believed to be in the region of several thousand pounds over the next four years.
Cllr Mitchell stated: “Such stringent financial restraints on a non-profit-making organisation in its very inception takes no account of the fact that it will take several years for the marina to establish itself, and it should not be classed alongside long-standing and profit-making marinas.
“It is hoped that common sense will prevail and give this fledgling business, in such an economically sensitive area as Harris, an opportunity to establish itself before such high rental incomes affects the marina’s very future.”
Western Isles MSP, Dr Alasdair Allan, has written to both Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, and to Simon Hodge supporting the Marina’s case for lower rents, and said: “I have been an avid supporter of the Harris marina project, as it has the potential to bring much-needed economic benefit to the local economy. It is concerning that this very worthwhile project is being hampered by Crown Estate Scotland’s approach.
“Island communities will soon be able to control and determine how to invest 100% of locally raised Crown Estate revenue. Clearly, these revenues can be significant. However, there is a balance that needs to be struck that ensures worthwhile local projects are able to flourish in their initial stages.”
The Marina’s Manager, Fred Taylor was hopeful that a review of the rents could be undertaken: “We are hoping the Crown Estate will revisit our case at which time we can look to agree some more supportive terms going forward.
“It should not be forgotten that the Isle of Harris Marina is a community project and is there to be a catalyst for local economic growth and not a commercial cow to be milked.
“I would like to see a review of how crown revenues are collected, and spent, with 100% of commercial revenues from the islands staying in the islands.”
The Isle of Harris Marina is part of a £1.35m pound marine hub, and operates two sets of pontoons in East Loch Tarbert, offering up to 90 berths for visiting boats.
A Crown Estate Scotland spokesperson said: “Crown Estate Scotland, and our predecessor organisation The Crown Estate, have had a long and supportive relationship with Harris Development Limited, providing practical help and support for the Tarbert and Scalpay marina project since its inception in 2012.
“In terms of seabed rents, Crown Estate Scotland has a statutory duty to generate revenue from the assets we manage, with the annual net revenue being returned to the Scottish Government for the benefit of the public purse.”
“In this case, we are still in negotiation with Harris Development Ltd over a suitable rental for their marina development and, through dialogue with them, we hope to reach an agreement on a suitable rental which allows their business to flourish whilst providing a fair return for the use of the land under our management.”