Residents of Sovereign Harbour pay an annual charge in addition to the council and other taxes toward ‘sea defences’.  This has been the case for many years, but it is hotly contested.

It appears that the 800m stretch of coast in question is the only piece of coast in the entire UK – approximately 17,820km – that is subject to such a charge.  The Sovereign Harbour Residents Associations (SHRA) have been fighting this charge for many a year, and as MP, I have been supporting them in this battle.

I have had a series of meetings with the relevant authorities, as well as representatives from Sovereign Harbour.  I am due to have a meeting with the Deputy Chief Executive of the Environment Agency shortly, and will be urging him to help find a resolution to this long running saga. I am pleased that the Environment Agency agreed to seek a second legal opinion, and will update me later this month.

I do appreciate your frustrations. This 800m stretch of coastline funded by private contributions in the entire UK is manifestly unfair.  Since being elected, I have met with the former Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs a number of times to discuss the unfairness of the charge, and have been working very closely with the SHRA to further the campaign. Moreover, I used my first discussion with the new Secretary of State to brief her on the Charge, and I am looking forward to working with her over the coming months.

You may also recall that prior to the General Election, I brought the former Secretary of State down to Sovereign Harbour to meet with representatives of the SHRA, and have since consistently worked to keep this on the Department’s agenda.

As way of an update, earlier this year I persuaded the Environments’ Agency to seek a second legal opinion on this matter – and we are currently awaiting publication of this.

On the matter of form the sea defences take, your point is well made; in our last meeting with the EA, SHRA representatives and I made the same point, and also enquired about the 1988 Southern Water Agreement. This had a requirement on the Authority to maintain groynes to restrict shingle movement through littoral drift.

As I said, I really do appreciate – and indeed share – your frustration. Please be assured that I am working tirelessly to find a long-term solution to this blatantly unfair charge.

The pdf below is a background to the Harbour Charge produced by the SHRA, and there is plenty more information on the issue on their website here