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'Frequently asked Questions' on the Cowes Breakwater Project (updated September 2013)

27 September 2013

NB. For all the latest information, read Cowes Local Notices to Mariners and visit the Cowes Breakwater Project section.

You can now read a selection of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ regarding the new Cowes breakwater and other aspects of the proposed harbour infrastructure development. 

Cowes Breakwater Project – Frequently Asked Questions: (updated 19 September 2013)

Q: What is the projected timeline for the construction of the new Cowes breakwater?
A: We are very pleased to be in a position to publish a timeline for the construction of the new Cowes Breakwater:

  • Final ground investigation works now completed
  • Tender out to 5 short-listed contractors; to return 18 October 2013
  • Design and build contract be be awarded in December 2013
  • Construction to start in February 2014 (NB. timeline updated since Sept 2013, see Cowes Breakwater Project section)
  • Construction due to be completed in 2014 (NB. timeline updated since Sept 2013, see Cowes Breakwater Project section)

The breakwater will be delivered under a design and build contract.

Q: Will the breakwater be delivered at the same time as the extension to the Shrape Breakwater and the dredging of the new Eastern Channel?
A: Delivery of the new Cowes breakwater remains top priority for CHC, and in order to continue progressing this project, CHC may move towards a phased delivery of the overall harbour infrastructure development, of which the new Cowes breakwater forms the first phase.

Phases two and three of the harbour infrastructure development are: a short extension to the existing Shrape Breakwater on the East Cowes side of the harbour, and the dredging of a new Eastern Channel for small craft.

Q: What are the projected costs of the Cowes breakwater, Shrape Breakwater extension, and dredging of a new Eastern Channel?
A: The estimated total spend for all the Cowes Harbour infrastructure elements is budgeted at £9 million. The cost of phase one, the new Cowes breakwater, is expected to be between £6 million and £7 million, with a minimum of £3 million already committed by CHC from its own existing resources and a commercial loan secured on CHC’s income producing assets, and the investment from the HCA.

Confirmation on the delivery of the new Cowes breakwater will then enable the HCA to lead on the development of a new East Cowes marina. Once appointed, the marina developer will be expected to contribute to the cost and delivery of phases two and three of the harbour infrastructure development, estimated at £2.5 million to £3 million.

Q: Will Cowes Harbour dues increase as a result of building the new breakwater?
A: There will be no increases until CHC know the final cost of construction. While it would be unwise at this stage to make a definitive statement, based on current budgeted construction costs and likely investment, CHC envisage that harbour dues can be maintained at their current rates.

The Commissioners are committed to full harbour user and stakeholder consultation before any final decisions are made on the new Cowes breakwater construction contract or harbour dues policy.

Q: Will CHC receive any direct commercial benefits from the new Cowes breakwater?
A: The new Cowes breakwater is an enabling project that will deliver few direct commercial returns for Cowes Harbour Commission. The return on the investment is, however, in the long-term financial prosperity of the local economy, which is so reliant on a secure and successful harbour and marine-related businesses.

CHC is required to make a commercially acceptable rate of return on its assets and surpluses should be reinvested to support the long-term viability of the port and thus for the benefit of stakeholders. In carrying out this duty, CHC should neither exploit its status to undercut the market nor abuse its statutory position. CHC is, however, allowed to invest in what are referred to as ‘stakeholder dividend’ projects that, whilst not meeting the requirement for a commercial return on investment, provide a return or benefit to the harbour stakeholders. A recent example of a CHC stakeholder dividend project was the investment and delivery of Trinity Landing. The investment by CHC into the proposed new Cowes breakwater will be the largest ‘stakeholder dividend’ project that the Commission has undertaken.

CHC will be using their cash reserves to fund half of CHC’s commitment to the new Cowes breakwater. These reserves have been built up over a period of time from their marine businesses, and in line with CHC strategy will now be reinvested back into the harbour infrastructure for the benefit of Cowes Harbour stakeholders and the Cowes community. The balance of CHC’s commitment will be funded from a commercial loan secured against CHC’s assets.

Q: How will the Cowes breakwater project help the economy?
A: The Cowes breakwater project will benefit Cowes, East Cowes and the Island economy by protecting and strengthening current jobs and through the opportunities that will be created as a result.

The Cowes breakwater project will build on existing facilities to enhance and expand the town’s reputation as a world class sailing location and improve access to and usability of a range of facilities and businesses around the mouth of the River Medina.

One of the key objectives of the project is to create a high quality gateway to the Isle of Wight and establish a waterfront visitor destination, which in turn will act as a catalyst for the wider economic regeneration activities proposed in East Cowes.

An important component of the regeneration plans for East Cowes is the proposed new marina. Without the new Cowes breakwater, the development of a marina becomes a potentially unviable option.

The Cowes breakwater will therefore act as an enabling project for further private investment into Cowes, East Cowes, and the Medina Valley.

The new Cowes breakwater will bring both immediate and longer-term economic benefits:

Protecting jobs in Cowes, East Cowes and the Isle of Wight – The new Cowes breakwater will greatly enhance Cowes’ reputation as an international centre for sailing and powerboating events and this in turn will be an important factor in protecting existing jobs and visitor numbers.

In the ultra competitive marine market of the 21st century Cowes can no longer rely on its reputation alone as the “home of world yachting”. Event organisers, sailors and powerboaters have increasingly high expectations when visiting harbours and selecting host venues, and recent investment into Weymouth and Portland for the 2012 Olympic Games has highlighted the need to maintain a proper level of infrastructure development in Cowes.

Town centre shops in Cowes and East Cowes, along with marinas and marine facing businesses, are heavily reliant on trade from visiting sailors and boaters. The fragile economic climate that we live in, coupled with such factors as bad weather during the sailing season and increased competition from sailing and boating centres on the mainland and in Europe, mean that Cowes can’t stand still – it has to move forward.

The new Cowes breakwater will not only protect existing jobs but also stimulate new investment and job opportunities, creating an environment where new businesses can be enabled to set up on sites which were previously too exposed, thereby bringing new employment and investment opportunities into Cowes, East Cowes, and the rest of the Isle of Wight.

Trinity Landing – Each season Cowes attracts a number of visits from cruise ships which anchor off Cowes and land their passengers at Trinity Landing to spend the day visiting the town and touring the Island. Trinity Landing is an excellent facility in fair weather, however, on occasions, ships have had to abort their visit to Cowes due to adverse sea conditions on Trinity Landing. The proposed new Cowes breakwater would dramatically improve the situation and allow CHC, and the Isle of Wight as a whole, to increase their marketing of the Island and of Cowes (and East Cowes should a marina be constructed) as a destination port for small passenger cruise ships.

Extended sailing season – The improved protection offered by the introduction of the Cowes breakwater will extend the sailing season, allowing sailing events to be run earlier in the year and into the end of the summer and early autumn. This will have large commercial benefits for both East Cowes and Cowes.

New East Cowes Marina – The Cowes breakwater will enable the development of a new 400 berth marina in East Cowes. The new marina will act as an important catalyst for the regeneration of East Cowes by encouraging higher visitor numbers, in turn generating greater commercial activity in the town and adding to the profile and image of the adjoining residential and commercial development.

Flood defences will be improved in the town as a result. This is of importance to both existing users in East Cowes, as well as sites earmarked for development in the town centre as part of the planned regeneration, which will be able to be marketed with a reduced risk of flooding attached, thus making them more attractive.

The new marina will capitalise on and strengthen Cowes’ status as an international centre of sailing and boating excellence and as the ‘home’ of UK sailing; significantly increasing the potential to accommodate sailing enthusiasts and their boats in a location adjacent to East Cowes town centre. This will be of particular importance during sailing events held across the year in Cowes, increasing the scope for people to attend. A Southern Tourist Report in 2000, commissioned by Cowes Yachting, concluded that £25.9 million was spent by visitors coming to Cowes due to the attraction of yachting. It is this contribution to the local economy that the development of the marina and adjoining areas can grow.

The marina, including the other components of the development, ie. hotel and commercial space, is estimated to create 55 full time jobs. A further 100 indirect jobs (marine leisure and tourism-related) will likely be created as a result of the marina alone.

A study by the British Marine Federation (Economic Benefits of Coastal Marinas) suggests that the total gross value added of the East Cowes marina and related employment will exceed £5 million.

The new marina will increase the Medina Valley’s contribution to the role of tourism in the wider economy of the Island, ensuring that the Island benefits from its large number of visitors.

Q: How will the new marina in East Cowes be delivered?
A: The Homes and Communities Agency has proposed a new 400 berth marina as part of the regeneration project for East Cowes and will therefore be responsible for the delivery of it.

Once the new Cowes breakwater has been constructed, the HCA will then be able to lead on the development of the East Cowes marina, which will be capable of accommodating larger boats than the current marinas as well as attracting new events to the Isle of Wight. The HCA will appoint a marina developer to carry the East Cowes marina project forward. The HCA have indicated their intention to market the marina opportunity in 2014.

Q: Could the new Cowes breakwater damage Cowes Week racing?
A: “No,” said Stuart Quarrie, Sailing Director at Cowes Week Limited. “The proposed new Cowes breakwater will obviously change the entrance to the River Medina in several ways, mainly positive.

“During the construction phase, there will undoubtedly be challenges to deal with, and once complete there will almost certainly need to be changes to the Cowes Week Sailing Instructions. However, the biggest impact in my view will be to provide a clear demarkation between moored boats and the open Solent, thus making it easier for Black Group competitors who currently have to stay outside an ill-defined set of outer moorings. I do not believe that the breakwater will have any serious impact on either the Royal Yacht Squadron start/finish line, or on the Shrape finish line.

“The huge, positive benefits to the harbour easily outweigh any short term negativity regarding changes that might need to be made to racing practices once the breakwater is in place. The reduction in wave height within the harbour will transform the harbour in northerly winds, and the additional berths eventually provided by a new East Cowes marina will potentially bring down the prices charged for Cowes Week competitors due to there being more choice and space available."

Q: Will the breakwater have an impact on any of the Cowes Club lines used to start and finish racing?
A: Robert Milner, Hon. Secretary of the Cowes Clubs and Classes Association, said: “All the existing Cowes clubs starting lines will still be able to be used as now. That is the Royal Yacht Squadron, Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Royal London Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club lines.

“The change will be the breakwater itself, which will effectively become the inner (southern) limit for starts to the east. Starts to the west will largely be unaffected by the new breakwater apart from the need to manoeuvre to the north of the new breakwater before a start."

Q: Will the public view of racing from The Parade be lost as a result of the new Cowes breakwater?
A: No, the height of the proposed new Cowes breakwater is of similar height to both the existing breakwater around the Royal Yacht Squadron Haven and the Shrape Breakwater and therefore will not block the view from The Parade.

Q: Will the new Cowes breakwater deal with the ‘smelly seaweed’ problem in East Cowes?
A: The seaweed smell is caused by seaweed that is washed up and stranded on the Shrape mud bank north of East Cowes and which then starts to degrade and rot. The resulting decaying mulch then gives rise to the smelly odour. The breakwater construction will not resolve this issue but the modeling shows a small increase in tidal flows in the vicinity of the Shrape mudbank that may assist slightly with the removal of the material.

The Isle of Wight Estuaries Project has carried out a number of trial harvesting campaigns with a view to developing a plan to manage this issue through a partnership and cost sharing scheme of the key stakeholders. The Commissioners consider this is currently the best way forward.


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