Portishead Town Council considers taking on running of Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve
PUBLISHED: 07:32 21 September 2019
Uncertainty over the future of Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve could be ended as Portishead Town Council explores taking control.
The authority has been offered the chance to take control of the management of the nature reserve, and councillors believe a deal could deliver security.
The wildlife hotspot was designated and protected to offset the development of Portishead Quays Marina several years ago.
Ownership of the land was due to be transferred from housing developer Persimmon to North Somerset Council four years ago, but the process has become a 'huge fudge' with paperwork yet to be completed.
After years of waiting, North Somerset is said to be looking for another body to be responsible for the nature reserve.
Town councillors agreed on September 11 to enter into discussions with North Somerset.
Chairman Paul Gardner said: "We are aware there are potential risks, so this will need to be done properly and we will go back to North Somerset and have further conversations."
Management of the reserve has been paid for by money collected from a levy by Port Marine Management Ltd (PMML) which ceased in 2015, and the Times reported in March less than £200,000 was left in the bank.
Cllr Caritas Charles told colleagues 'around £100,000' remains in the kitty, equating to an estimated two and a half years of maintenance with costs totalling £40,000 a year - and the burden will be shifted to taxpayers when the cash stream runs dry.
He added: "The nature reserve has been a huge fudge of an issue for this town for so long. We had no security of its future and no idea of its ownership or way forward.
"I don't necessarily know what the future should be, but I believe the town should have a say on what that future is."
Cllr Sue Mason, however, urged the authority to proceed with caution.
She said: "I would be very wary of the town council, as a body, taking this on.
"I think there are things we would be responsible for, even if we contracted out the management of it.
"There could be a lot of expenses we are not aware of, and I would be wary of taking on such a big project."
Avon Wildlife Trust used to manage the site using the levy collected by PMML.