The long-planned £3m repair and maintenance project for Plymouth’s lock gates, being managed by the Environment Agency (EA), is continuing to create huge uncertainty amongst the Plymouth fishing industry, with many fearing that the work will permanently damage the harbour’s fisheries infrastructure and standing.

Work is scheduled to start on 4 September, with a detailed timetable in place until work completes in 2024. Alternative arrangements have been set out for vessels arriving in Plymouth when the lock gates are closed to use the Trinity Pier at Millbay. However, many port users say this will be unworkable, and ignores concerns they have raised on multiple occasions.

Although Sutton Harbour Company has issued reassurances to port users, Plymouth Fishing and Seafood Association (PFSA) posted a statement online last week, outlining its concerns and asking for a range of changes to proposed mitigation measures.

Speaking to FN on behalf of the PFSA, Rodney Anderson said: “We have a whole suite of concerns about the proposals from Sutton Harbour Company, which have yet to be addressed.

“We’re grateful that Plymouth Council has called a meeting for 16 August, that will be attended by both the EA and Sutton Harbour, where we will have the opportunity to discuss these in detail. Until this council intervention, we have struggled to have meaningful dialogue with either Sutton Harbour or the EA, who appear to have passed the buck entirely.

“The council have recognised our concerns that under the current plans, a large number of vessels will simply switch their operations to Brixham, where the message from the harbour and the market there is much more welcoming.

“We have multiple concerns, that to date don’t appear to have been taken seriously. Current proposals for unloading fish during the work, for example, involve a single Hiab that can unload just three boxes at a time.

“If that wasn’t going to create a capacity issue, on top of that, the proposal is to provide a single flatbed for transport of fish, risking years of hard work we have put in here, building up awareness of a modern 21st-century cold supply chain. It is even more problematical, as this will be during cuttlefish season, with the need to keep these catches separate.

“To add to the situation, there will be no ice available, and the Harbour Company will not allow deliveries of fuel to Trinity Pier. This goes against recommendations made in its own consultants’ report.”

A spokesman from the EA said: “We and our framework contractor Kier have been working closely with Sutton Harbour Company and with their customers, and have developed a pragmatic programme of work to reduce the impact of the works as far as is practicable.

“Our contractor and our project team will continue to work with Sutton Harbour to make sure that up-to-date information is provided to the harbour users for the duration of the work.”

A spokesman from Sutton Harbour Company said: “Throughout the planning for this project, our overriding aim has been to maintain operations in the harbour to the maximum extent possible and minimise disruption for harbour users during these essential works.

“We have worked with the fishing community and berth holders, and engaged expert independent consultants to develop mitigation plans to ensure the ongoing operation of the fishing industry and to meet the needs of leisure users.”

FN will report on the outcome of the meeting, and any new measures agreed, next week.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.50 here

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