Bristol harbour fee hikes could force boat-dwellers and businesses to sell

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Boat-dwellers and businesses operating on Bristol's harbour say they may be forced to sell after the council proposed huge hikes in fees to be introduced in April. 

In some cases, residents could see their mooring fees rise by more than 150% while new charges will be introduced for opening bridges, electricity and a ferry passenger tax.

Ivor and Mary have been living on board their boat for ten years. But under the Bristol City Council changes, they face paying more than £2000 extra a year on their mooring fees.

Ivor Jackson said: “‘We came here to be next to our son and hopeful for the rest of our lives but that’s looking in some jeopardy now. Especially with the inflation built into it it could get quite painful quite quickly."

A petition calling for the Mayor of Bristol to consult with harbour users has now been signed by more than 3,500 people.

Leisure operators on the harbour face some of the most drastic changes. Luke Dunstan, who runs Bristol Packet Boat Trips, warns the effects could be devastating to his business.

Luke said: “Trying to maintain the employment levels we had last year is going to be a real struggle with these new taxes because we have not financially planned for it.

More than 3,500 people have signed a petition calling for the Mayor of Bristol to consult with harbour users

“Do Bristol City Council want to see trip boat operators here on the harbour, do they want us to invest in our business in the future? Should I liquidate our assets now and call it a day and advise all our employees to get jobs with amazon?”

A spokesperson for the Mayor of Bristol said: “We want the floating harbour to be an asset for the benefit of the whole city, one which is financially sustainable, accessible and contributes to our wider aims of climate resilience and biodiversity.

“Harbour fees have not been reviewed for 20 years and have now been brought up to a commercial level, benchmarked against other similar harbours.

"We are modernising the ancient and crumbling harbour infrastructure and the correct fee structure will contribute to the harbour being financially self-sufficient. 

“The decision to commercialise fees is aimed at ensuring all city residents, businesses, users and visitors benefit from improved facilities within the harbour.

“The vast majority of boats in the harbour are moored on a leisure licence meaning they are only entitled to spend around 15 nights in the harbour per year, and have agreed a permit that means they are short term users and therefore don’t pay council tax. There are only eight boat users who have residential permits.  

“Ahead of the introduction of the new fees and charges from April, there will be opportunities for harbour users to discuss the plans for the harbour and have their say on the improvements they would like to see to the facilities and harbour environment.”