FOUR Poole Harbour businesses have begun legal action to take the council to court over the boat haven on the quay.

The marinas and boatyards are seeking a judicial review at the High Court in a bid to confirm what constitutes a “visiting vessel”.

They claim the Poole Quay Boat Haven, now owned by Poole Harbour Commissioners, moors boats that have not been moved for years, is competing with their business and stagnating the vitality of the waterfront.

Salterns Marina at Lilliput and three Hamworthy concerns Davis’s Boatyard, Cobbs Quay and Dorset Lake Shipyard are seeking a judicial review, with a short hearing due on May 24, which they hope will lead to a full case.

However Borough of Poole says it is close to a new legal agreement and hopes to avoid costly court action.

John Smith, managing director of Salterns Marina said: “I want the visitor’s haven to be operating for visitors, so it’s a busy, vibrant facility which benefits the whole of Poole.”

Eamonn Feeney, managing director of MDL Marinas Group which owns Cobbs Quay said: “We are a group of local business people who have been forced to go to court to get common sense and fair play restored. We hope the judge sees it the way we do.”

Robin Culpan, director of Dorset Lake Shipyard said other south coast marinas had restrictions of a week or slightly longer for visiting yachts. “There are so many permanent boats in there,” he said.

Lorraine Murdoch, partner in Davis’s Boatyard said they had fought against a large marina 31 years ago, “Because of it ruining all our businesses. Here we are fighting it again.”

The group’s solicitor, Paul Thomas said: “We are asking the judge for a definition of what the words ‘visiting vessel’ means. The judge has already indicated it is not a three-month rolling contract.”

*The original 106 planning agreement signed in 2000 by Borough of Poole, Poole Harbour Commissioners and Poole and District Fishermen’s Association stated that from April to October all of the berths must be available for visiting vessels.

“There was never a definition of what a visiting vessel was. It fell short, it was defective,” said Andy Dearing, Borough of Poole planning enforcement manager.

He said: “During the summer I was satisfied there were enough berths for visiting vessels. I never received any complaints from people visiting by boat that they couldn’t get into the boat haven.”

Now negotiating with the original signatories on a new 106 agreement, which would give a visiting vessel a maximum stay of 30 nights between April and October, and reduce the number of visitor berths from 105 to 80.

Jim Stewart, chief executive of Poole Harbour Commissioners said they were in talks with Borough of Poole and other parties to try to find a solution.