Possible Council response to dwindling number of berth holders

In response to a dwindling number of berth-holders in Wales, Gwynedd Council is considering placing the operation of Hafan Pwllheli, a 400-plus berth marina in the north Wales region of the UK, to the private sector. The marina can accommodate yachts of around 20m (66ft) or more.

The fall in the number of berth-holders is a problem faced by a growing number of marinas in Wales and is a subject featuring regularly in marina conferences. The marina’s infrastructure is also ageing, with most of the pontoons being over 20 years’ old.

Gwynedd Council became the owners of Hafan Pwllheli in 1996 following the reorganisation of local government. Prior to this, Dwyfor District Council, the marina’s previous owner, had significantly developed the facility with help from European funding.

The manner of how the private sector might become involved is still under discussion, but leasing, selling or operating it through a subsidiary are all being reviewed.

Hafan Pwllheli is a full-service facility offering offices, changing rooms, showers, toilets, safe boat storage, a 50-tonne crane, boat transport and parking in addition to the berths. On the Hafan Pwllheli website it is described as ‘the North West’s premier marina’. Opposite the marina is the new National Sailing Academy Events Centre at Plas Heli.

In terms of the fall in berth-holders, a survey earlier this year showed that 21 out of 81 berths in the outer harbour were available and 103 out of 409 in the marina itself. In the past, the marina made a profit of £800,000 or more a year but with the fall in customers this has slipped by some 50%.

In a statement about the report, Gwynedd Council says: “It is recommended there is a case for change but that does not necessarily mean that new providers are needed to manage the Hafan. The alternative model could, as a minimum, mean introducing improvements and/or an investment to the service and, at the other end of the scale, could mean selling the site to an independent provider.”

The report concludes: “There is evidence pertaining to the need to take steps to prevent further decline in the income and use of Pwllheli Hafan. Necessary investment in Hafan means that the financial gains to the Council are likely to fall over the coming years in all scenarios. Any further work would consider those requirements in more detail and would assess a shortlist of options as grounds for the Council’s decision.”