THE FUTURE of the Hayling Ferry is under threat because of a row over pontoon fees.
Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council split the £20,000 cost for the licence to use the pontoons on either side of Langstone Harbour, until earlier this year when the city council cut its funding.
The county council has paid its share but that will only cover the period up until March – after that if the ferry firm does not pay up it will not be allowed to use it.
Tomorrow, the harbour board will meet to discuss the situation at Portsmouth Civic Offices.
Frida Edwards, whose family has owned the ferry for 30 years, has put forward a proposal to change the way the harbour board charges them – which she says will also do away with the need for subsidies from the county council. She said: ‘At the moment we are charged £45,000 a year to use the pontoon.
‘That is £20,000 for a licence, which was paid by Hampshire and Portsmouth, and £25,000 that Hampshire gives the harbour board to pay for maintenance.
‘But the harbour board is a private enterprise.
‘Why should someone else have to pay for maintenance?
‘It’s like being a tenant in a house and being told, if you want to stay there, you have to pay for the repairs to the roof.’
A proposal has been put forward to pay for the pontoon use on a usage basis – bringing it in line with what fishing charters pay – £158 a year for one hour a day.
The ferry company’s proposal is to pay 12 times that amount, representing 12 hours use each day. When they are not using the pontoon they say they will berth at a mooring.
But harbour master Nigel Jardine said the cost of the licence reflects the fact the pontoons are used mostly by the ferry.
He added: ‘The £20,000 licence is to use the infrastructure. There is also a disproportionate cost to maintain that infrastructure for the main benefit of the ferry.
‘The board does not need such big pontoons but we maintain them because we think the ferry service is a good thing.
‘The board will decide in due course if it wants any at all.’
The proposal will be considered tomorrow.