Protect our harbour

I AM writing in response to Kevin Smith’s enlightening piece headlined ‘Damaging permit scheme to be slashed’ (Observer, March 8).

It concerned the proposal to scrap the boat permits, long held to be necessary to take a boat into Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve, and replace them with a code of conduct, West Sussex County Council having at last recognised that the permits are ‘not fit for purpose’.

There is a piece in the history section of the BBC website which complements Kevin’s report, and sets the permits into a context from a local perspective, which may interest readers.

I quote from www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday/dblock/GB-484000-96000/page/21 “In the 1986 Doomsday Reloaded it was noted that there were 21 byelaws and it emphasised that ‘You are not allowed to use a boat or water-ski’ in Pagham Harbour. At the time when the nature reserve was set up in 1964, people came from neighbouring areas to water-ski. This was frowned upon due to the disturbance to wildlife, and since this time a local folklore has been promoted that boating is not allowed in the harbour. However the byelaws have always reflected the international right of navigation, stating that it is limited to a public waterway, defined as all tidal waters. Pagham Harbour is tidal.”

“47 years on, there are no water skiers, and very few boats. The harbour is becoming silted up, and it is only possible to launch a small boat or canoe at Sidlesham at high spring tides, and few boats enter the harbour through the entrance as the channel is narrow and passes between shifting shingle banks.

“Many people in Sidlesham are still ignorant of the meaning of the byelaws, which do not cover the launch site at the quay. A whole generation have been deprived of their rights, through the myth which is still being encouraged long after the water skiers have gone.

“This has all come to light during a review of byelaws prior to a proposed transfer of management of the nature reserve from West Sussex County Council to the RSPB, due to council cutbacks in spending, following the economic recession of 2008/9.”

What more can one say?

K Lanchester

Oving