The cost to remove seaweed from Ventnor Harbour has gone up by £12,000.
Since the harbour was built it has suffered from seaweed brought in from the English Channel, which has had to be removed to retain a constant depth and get rid of smells.
Now the cost of the contract is increasing due to additional work required to the plant and equipment used, said a council spokesperson.
Between March 2019 and March 2020, the Isle of Wight Council paid Cheetah Marine £75,120 to have the seaweed removed, which was said to be unsustainable in the long-term. The contract ran out at the end of March 2020 with the council budgeting £73,189 for its renewal — an almost £2,000 cut.
Through a procurement process, it was won back by Cheetah Marine, who will carry on the service until March 2022 but at a higher cost.
Ventnor Harbour is forecast to face a £15,231 overspend in its contracted services budget. Of the £15,231, £14,231 is for the renewal of the seaweed contract, with the price increasing to £87,420 a year — more than the council had budgeted.
Speaking at a meeting of the harbour committee, Ventnor East’s Councillor Graham Perks, said the contract had gone up by a significant amount and that he would like some clarification and a full set of accounts. He said:
“The people in Ventnor can read between the lines, that it is not making any money – it is costing money – and we do not want to see it offloaded for a stupid amount.”
Cllr Perks said that the issue could be fixed for £300,000, using money given to the council by the government for its coastal protection schemes, to turn the westward arm back out to sea, cutting 80 per cent of the seaweed coming in.
He also suggested getting a fresh pair of eyes on the problem, with the council only accepting ideas that had not already been put forward in previous reports.
Alex Minns, the council’s assistant director of neighbourhoods, said the council had spent a number of years trying to find a possible solution but “if it was straightforward, it would have been sorted by now.
“I have yet to see a report or any suggestion of how the problem could be resolved that is cost effective.”
The council is reviewing the future for Ventnor Harbour, following the ongoing talks with Ryde Town Council to take on Ryde Harbour.
A spokesperson for the Isle of Wight Council said the seaweed removal contract would form part of the discussions into Ventnor Harbour’s future.