Posts Tagged ‘patrol’

A report from the Avon Estuary Forum of 3rd March 2020

The Avon Estuary Forum (AEF) is a biannual meeting of all those agencies and individuals with a relevant interest although discussions often include upstream matters that might affect the estuary.   The Forum is usually held in Thurlestone Parish Hall and anybody is welcome to attend.   If you’d like to be added to the mailing lists for alerts, please contact nigel.mortimer@southdevonaonb.org.uk.

 

The meeting on 3rd March was my second as Chairman and I have decided to provide occasional reports  to widen the information base beyond the distribution of the formal notes that are provided prior to our next meeting (on 13th October in this case).

 

Ryan Hooper (Estate Manager & Bantham Harbourmaster) announced that the Bantham Estate would continue the operation of the Avon Patrol in 2020, financed as previously by South Hams DC and the Bantham Estate, with voluntary contributions from the Aune Conservation Association (ACA), the Avon Valley Ski Club (AVSC) and the Duchy of Cornwall.   Last summer, the revamped patrol made a valuable contribution to the safety and security of many estuary users.

 

There was further discussion, without resolution, about possible improvements to the Bantham/Bigbury ferry operation and how these might tie in with changes to the England Coast Path proposals from Natural England, to the advantage of walkers and regional tourism.  Funding is one unsettled issue.

 

Public participation in several consultations was invited.  The first involves the South Devon Catchment Partnership and ‘Challenges and Choices’ (see – http://south-devon.org/challenges-and-choices/).  That consultation explains why water is such a vital resource, describes the challenges that threaten the water environment, explores how we can work together to manage our waters, looks at who should pay for the actions needed and, importantly, invites input on all these issues.  In that context, there was considerable discussion about river water quality and how standards can be maintained in the face of severe Environment Agency staff cuts. The second consultation, open until 6th April, (see – https://consult.defra.gov.uk/mmo/draft-south-west-inshore-and-offshore-marine-plans/) is about marine planning in the SW, including the Avon Estuary (now designated as a Marine Conservation Zone).  We also heard about proposed new ‘bag limits’ that might be imposed by the Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) on the hand collection of foreshore species such as bait worms, scallops, cockles, mussels and limpets but the deadline for that consultation has now passed!

 

As a direct outcome of the meeting, I have contacted Devon & Severn IFCA about local reports of diseased crabs and lobsters by AVSC members.    It seems likely, from a brief Internet search and the description provided at our meeting, that these crustaceans might be the victims of ‘black spot’ disease – a bacterial infection (see picture obtained from the internet) .

Have any other ‘potters’ seen evidence of this disease locally?   Please let us know.

 

The Outdoor Swimming Association has told me that there will be a new event this year – the Bantham ‘Boomerang’ on Friday 3rd July, whereby swimmers will enter the water at Bantham beach at around 1630 and swim upstream with the tide.  All swimmers will turn with the tide at 18.00 (wherever they may be!) and return to Bantham – the last swimmers are expected to be out of the water by 20.00.  The Bantham ‘Swoosh’ will take place on Saturday 4th July, with swimmers entering the water at Aveton Gifford from 06.00 and exiting at Bantham by 09.15.  Please beware of swimmers and let’s hope nobody will get a dose of ‘black spot’!

The Avon Estuary Patrol – 2019

Following an outcry at the Avon Estuary Forum in 2018 and some intensive lobbying by the Aune Conservation Association (ACA),   we managed to reverse the SHDC decision to withdraw the Avon Patrol.    We believe this service is vital to maintain the safety and security of recreational estuary users during the summer months of July, August and September,  especially given the upsurge in popularity of kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, wild swimming, etc.   over the last few years.

 

Discussions about the nature of an agreement to underpin the patrol have been going on since February 2019 but the long-awaited drafting of a formal contract by SHDC legal services has galvanised thinking and we have now arrived at a situation similar to what existed in the past i.e. a contract to provide the service between SHDC (customer) and the Bantham Estate (provider) with voluntary annual contributions of £500 each from the Avon Valley Waterski Club, the ACA  and the Duchy of Cornwall being made to the Bantham Estate.   SHDC will contribute £2500/year.  The total annual cost will be £4000 and the contract will run for 5 years after which it will be reviewed.

 

SHDC-licensed Bantham Estate staff and licensed boats are out on the water on a very frequent basis and will report regularly to the Salcombe Harbourmaster about the conduct of the patrol and any necessary  interventions with the public to uphold the byelaws.    Bantham Estate started operating the patrol in July this year, prior to the contractual details being finalised,  as an act of good faith.

 

Whilst the ACA, like the other groups, is very pleased about this outcome,  the increased contribution represents a very considerable chunk of our reserves over a 5-year period.  Unlike the other contributing groups, the ACA as an environmental conservation charity does not have any regular source of income and the extra £250 is a large sum for us to find on an ongoing basis for the altruistic purpose of conserving this very important recreational and tourism asset for the general public.   Therefore, we shall need to consider how to continue funding this valuable service in the longer term.   Our participation in the  South Hams Lottery  is one new source of extra funds and if you would like to help us to keep the estuary safe and secure, whilst standing a chance of winning some prize money,  you could make a donation via the following link - https://www.seamoorlotto.co.uk/support/aune-conservation-association

 

Thank you for your support.

REPORT ON AVON ESTUARY FORUM

At last evening’s Avon Estuary Forum (AEF) there was a detailed discussion about the state of the Avon Estuary Patrol.   Here is my view of the situation.
Historically, this service has operated on a rather haphazard and informal basis depending upon the Patrol Officer’s availability and the apparent need during busy periods.  This year, the patrol was operated, as previously, by Marsh Dawes – the Bantham Harbourmaster – for the months of July, August and September following the outcry that erupted when SHDC had proposed to disband the service earlier in the year.   However, for the first time,  the ACA and others received an incident report for each of the three operational months and it is obvious that there is a strong requirement both for an advisory  service to deter speeding and other potentially dangerous activities, and – importantly –  to act as a deterrent against widespread abuse of the waterway and its bye-laws if it were to be left unpatrolled.
The fate of the patrol in 2019 is currently uncertain.  However, because of the outcry that arose about abandonment this year, the new Salcombe Harbourmaster is taking a much more active interest in the Avon than previously and he and other stakeholders – including the ACA – will be involved in the discussion about the patrol’s future before a final decision is made by SHDC.   At the AEF last evening, there was general agreement that because of the increased recreational use of the estuary, there is a greater need than ever for a patrol – which should be available on a more extensive and routine basis than previously: the operation should respond to the changing need.
Obviously, such increased patrol activity would carry increased costs and these will form an important part of the debate about the future operation and its funding.  One of the future scenarios may be that current contributors (ACA, Avon Valley Ski Club, Duchy of Cornwall, Bantham Estate) will be asked to pay more to keep the patrol running, a second scenario is that the donor base might be widened (possibly to include parish councils or river users, as two examples); a third is that the Patrol Officer role might be incorporated with other roles around the estuary to create a full-time position – possibly as part of the Bantham Estate.
An extraordinary AEF will be held in February to debate and review progress on the matter.
Other matters raised at the meeting included:-
1) Environment Agency – it is the intention to invite stakeholders to suggest where and when more comprehensive water sampling could be carried out in the estuary.  The background to this was not explained but the ACA would be enthusiastic supporters!
2) IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) –  the public is encouraged to report any unmarked (therefore unlicensed) lobster/ crab pots or suspected illegal fishing (01803 856648 or, out of hours,  07740175479).
3) RYA (Royal Yachting Association) – the public is encouraged to report any poorly marked fishing gear via the website.

AVON PATROL SAVED FOR 2018!

Readers may be interested in an example giving some insight into our behind-the-scenes activities – all carried out by unpaid volunteers.  On the topic of the Avon Patrol, I heard just before the Avon Estuary Forum in May that this vital service was to be withdrawn, as a cost-saving measure, on the recommendation of the former Salcombe Harbourmaster.   None of those organisations that had contributed to the patrol for many years had been informed, including the ACA; one had even been invoiced for their 2018 contribution!  After a prolonged series of email enquiries and complaints to Parish, District and County Councillors, as well as the Manager of Commercial Services at SHDC, I was informed eventually that some way would be found to resurrect the patrol for July, August and September this year but that the future of the service beyond 2018 was uncertain.   However, a new Salcombe Harbourmaster has been appointed since this story broke and, as of today, I have been told by him that the usual patrol service will be resurrected from 1st July and I sense that we can expect a more enlightened and collaborative approach towards our estuary from SHDC in the future.