Council adopts Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve

North Somerset Council will adopt Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve, subject to legal agreements being r

North Somerset Council will adopt Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve, subject to legal agreements being resolved. - Credit: Archant

Maintenance of a popular nature reserve near Portishead is set to be slashed as it is finally transferred into public ownership. 

Portbury Wharf was created by North Somerset Council as part of a planning agreement to provide a green buffer between the port and the Ashlands housing development. The site is a popular recreational and wildlife area.

Maintenance had been funded by a £50 charge to nearby homes that clocked up £100,000 a year, but the levy was scrapped in 2015 after complaints from some that it was excessive. 

Council documents show that members voted the following year to adopt the 116-acre site, although the transfer stalled due to 'historical failings in the administrative arrangements of Port Marine Management Limited (PMML)' which collected the levy on behalf of developer Persimmon. 

While those issues have now largely been resolved, there is a hole in the funding – £400,000 in reserves that was expected to fund a decade’s worth of maintenance has almost run out in just six years. 

The council documents say the firm may have held less cash than it had claimed in 2015 and it would have faced legal costs. 

Council leader Don Davies – whose predecessor Councillor Nigel Ashton is a director of PMML – said: “Portbury Wharf is a mess that needed a solution. We needed to take it into our hands to ensure it is preserved. 

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“It’s taken far longer than I would’ve liked due to the previous administration’s shenanigans.”

Following negotiations, Persimmon has agreed to contribute £75,000 towards maintenance in the short term, which the council plans to spend more than six years while it seeks other sources of funding. 

Maintenance will take place just 1.5 days a week, compared to the current 3.5 days – reducing the number of litter picks, repairs and inspections and ending the monthly bird surveys. 

Cllr Caritas Charles, the ward member for Portishead East, said: “I am pleased that there is slightly more security for the nature reserve but I’m greatly frustrated that a huge amount of unanswered questions and frustrations that have bugged the people of Portishead and Portishead East in particular have gone unanswered.

“The reduction in maintenance will obviously be a concern to people in the area.

"The team at the council is amazing and I know they will do the best they can but it’s not going to be the same as the resources promised when the project was set out, which is a real tragedy and questions need to be asked about it.” 

The levy is part of a covenant on the 2,500 houses but PMML will send a letter to each of them legally releasing them from it. 

Cllr Charles said it had 'plagued' residents who wanted to sell their homes and questioned why the process had taken so long.

Cllr Steve Bridger, the council's executive member with responsibility for assets, said the adoption of the site was great news for the local community.

Cllr Bridger said: "This is a very popular public space that is also a haven for wildlife.

"The adoption of the site by the council will ensure that the nature reserve can be enjoyed for generations to come."

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