At last evening’s Avon Estuary Forum (AEF) there was a detailed discussion about the state of the Avon Estuary Patrol. Here is my view of the situation.
Historically, this service has operated on a rather haphazard and informal basis depending upon the Patrol Officer’s availability and the apparent need during busy periods. This year, the patrol was operated, as previously, by Marsh Dawes – the Bantham Harbourmaster – for the months of July, August and September following the outcry that erupted when SHDC had proposed to disband the service earlier in the year. However, for the first time, the ACA and others received an incident report for each of the three operational months and it is obvious that there is a strong requirement both for an advisory service to deter speeding and other potentially dangerous activities, and – importantly – to act as a deterrent against widespread abuse of the waterway and its bye-laws if it were to be left unpatrolled.
The fate of the patrol in 2019 is currently uncertain. However, because of the outcry that arose about abandonment this year, the new Salcombe Harbourmaster is taking a much more active interest in the Avon than previously and he and other stakeholders – including the ACA – will be involved in the discussion about the patrol’s future before a final decision is made by SHDC. At the AEF last evening, there was general agreement that because of the increased recreational use of the estuary, there is a greater need than ever for a patrol – which should be available on a more extensive and routine basis than previously: the operation should respond to the changing need.
Obviously, such increased patrol activity would carry increased costs and these will form an important part of the debate about the future operation and its funding. One of the future scenarios may be that current contributors (ACA, Avon Valley Ski Club, Duchy of Cornwall, Bantham Estate) will be asked to pay more to keep the patrol running, a second scenario is that the donor base might be widened (possibly to include parish councils or river users, as two examples); a third is that the Patrol Officer role might be incorporated with other roles around the estuary to create a full-time position – possibly as part of the Bantham Estate.
An extraordinary AEF will be held in February to debate and review progress on the matter.
Other matters raised at the meeting included:-
1) Environment Agency – it is the intention to invite stakeholders to suggest where and when more comprehensive water sampling could be carried out in the estuary. The background to this was not explained but the ACA would be enthusiastic supporters!
2) IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) – the public is encouraged to report any unmarked (and, therefore unlicensed, lobster/ crab pots or suspected illegal fishing (01803 856648 or, out of hours, 07740175479).
3) RYA (Royal Yachting Association) – the public is encouraged to report any poorly marked fishing gear via the website.