The public will be forbidden from using a new £100,000 floating jetty on Brightlingsea Hard – part of Brightlingsea Town Council's Heritage Quay project – when it opens as planned in July.
Responding to questions from Brightlingsea Info, John Carr, the town councillor leading the project, said that funding conditions mean the jetty will only be open to coded fishing vessels until "after the UK government have deemed the country to be safe from Covid-19". In addition, the jetty as planned won't be strong enough for Thames barges to moor alongside – one of the main features of the original plans.
When launched last year, concept drawings showed a new decked quay area in front of the Colne Yacht Club and a jetty with a hammerhead – a wider mooring platform – extending from the quay. Information released for public consultation on the project said the Heritage Quay would "provide a tasteful arena for a multitude of everyday and special community events", including crabbing, and that the jetty would have "space for three of more barges to lay alongside, providing a glorious sight".
However, although other news outlets have given the impression that the whole project has been approved by Tendring District Council (TDC) planners, in reality only the jetty has been given the go ahead, and in a very different form to what was shown on the artist's impressions originally released by the town council.
A drawing from the original public consultation information shows barges moored alongside the jetty
As approved by TDC on March 25, the jetty will now begin from the paved seating area in front of the Colne Yacht Club, extending straight out for around 80m with no hammerhead. According to Councillor Carr, the largest locally-based vessel able to use the jetty will be the oyster dredger Jacqueline Ann, which displaces 10 tons – much smaller than barges that may displace 80 tons or more.
Funding for the bulk of the jetty build – £75,000 – has come from the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund on condition that it can only be used as a facility for landing fish in a "safe and secure Covid-19 free environment". That funding would have been lost if work hadn't begun by the end of March.
Councillor Carr explained: "Once completed the facility will be available to coded fishing vessels. With agreement from our funders once the UK government deem the country to be safe from Covid 19 the facility will be jointly used by the professional fishermen and general community of Brightlingsea." Funds for the quay component have yet to be sourced and Councillor Carr said that "the volunteer group working on the heritage quay and pier have not set themselves any time frame" as to its possible completion.
Brightlingsea Town Council will contribute £25,000 towards the construction of the jetty, which Councillor Carr said will pass into the council's ownership "after a certain period of time". He said: "A future desire is to strengthen that pier which will allow larger vessels to lay alongside. After this second stage of construction any historical heritage vessels either berthed or enjoying the WWII concrete maintenance grid will attract berthing charges which will, in the long run, help to maintain the facility."
The concrete grid referred to was built by the Royal Navy over 75 years ago and runs alongside the dolphins – the metal structures used to guide vessels on to the grid – which have been the subject of some local controversy after it was suggested that they would be removed in order to make way for the new jetty. Councillor Carr said that the dolphins – which are badly decayed – have now been the subject of a structural survey, following which the council's insurer said it can no longer "underwrite such a dangerous structure". Councillor Carr said that although it was thought initially that the dolphins could be removed and restored, local engineers have said they don't have the skills to do this but may be able to build replicas instead. The cost of any work on the dolphins will be in addition to the cost of the jetty.
One of the dolphins – now said to be uninsurable following a survey
Councillor Carr explained that in order to comply with Marine Management Organisation permits aimed at protecting breeding birds, work on the jetty had to stop by the end of March. Two posts were installed by the deadline, but though the original plan was to secure the jetty with piles, the thickness of the concrete grid – still intact under the mud and found to be 1.5m thick rather than the expected 600mm – made piling impossible in the timeframe. As a result, the plan is now to anchor the jetty in place until this winter, when piling will be allowed again.
The width of the planned deck area has had to be reduced as Essex County Council said it would impact on the view from the old Anchor Hotel, which is Grade II listed. Councillor Carr said that the depth of the deck had been extended to compensate for the narrower width and that once new drawings have been lodged with TDC planners they will also be released to the community for further public consultation.
The new posts and the dolphins - the new jetty will run to the right of these
It's believed that when the deck area goes ahead, the jetty components will be re-used and relocated to start at the seaward end. "It is hoped that the facility may also serve a purpose for loading day charters onto coded historical vessels," said Councillor Carr, who added: "It is acknowledged we do currently have a facility available on the town jetty that allows coded vessels to load passengers onto coded historical vessels. This second facility will aid the desire on attracting more tourism and visitors to our town and harbour."
The council has also submitted plans, due to be considered soon by TDC, for a new Brightlingsea ferry landing stage at Point Clear – a purpose-built walkway running across the marsh opposite Brightlingsea Hard and ending on pontoons in the creek so that the ferry can be used at all states of the tide and in stronger winds. The ferry – which is operated by Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners – is popular with residents and holidaymakers but the current beach access is unsuitable for wheelchair users and difficult to cross for those with prams or bikes.
• All the documents relating to the planning application - number 20/01823/FUL – can be seen on Tendring Council's website here. You can download a copy of the Full Strategic Report compiled by Brightlingsea Town Council to support the Heritage Quay plans here.