People in Maldon and beyond are dismayed and rightly concerned about the approach the district council has taken towards the Hythe and Promenade Park, and particularly the high-handed way in which the matter of charges and leases has been handled.

It is short-sighted in the extreme for the council to focus on extracting maximum cash from existing established activities.

This has involved piecemeal measures which disregard other policy aims and in particular the Central Area Master Plan (CAMP).

The CAMP emphasises the importance of the Hythe (and Prom Park) and the related water-based activities as a key draw for visitors (the town’s USP or unique selling point in marketing terms) and building on that to make more of the maritime heritage in the form of a visitor centre dedicated to that theme. The barges would then represent real ‘exhibits’ as well as practical experience of large sail boats and scope for trips on the Blackwater which so many people enjoy.

The CAMP did include some fanciful ideas for use of the quay, but it cannot be divorced from activities connected to barge-working. It is not at all suitable as a public car park anyway and any on-street parking should be reserved for residents.

The council is promising a review of charges after a year and dialogue with users. This has to recognise the importance of supporting existing activities as well as plans to maintain the usability of the quay.

The review should consider the rationale for wharfage fees rather than treat the exercise as bargaining over possible future increases.

Christopher Swain

Independent councillor - Maldon East