FLIP partner exchange visit - Torbay and Saint Brieuc

A successful bilateral visit with FLIP partners from Tor Bay harbour to Saint Brieuc and the Cotes D'Armor county of Brittany took place between 11th an 13th March 2014. The visit was extremely useful from a number of perspectives.  It was encouraging to see that many of the challenges faced by small and medium sized harbours are common to both sides of the Channel area.  Whilst the governance arrangements and the concept of general interest in the economy of small and medium sized ports varies between France and the UK, all parties found the exchange helpful from a technical, environmental and economic perspective.  En route to Saint Brieuc, Kevin Mowat, Tor Bay Harbour master, was particularly impressed by the Roscoff approach with a 21st century marina being designed with dedicated access to people with disabilities that goes well beyond the existing regulatory framework in both Member States.  The exchanges around small scale renewable technologies, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices in dealing with wastes in marinas were also particularly relevant. From a practical perspective, the potential for cost saving initiatives around investments in marina management systems and marina WIFI systems also moved forwards as a series of business contacts and credentials were exchanges during the visit. Discussions also took place with representatives from the Parc Marin d’Iroise who play a key role balancing economic and environemental interests in western Brittany.  As something of a national first in France, Kevin Mowat was impressed by its operation and professionalism in creating a respected structure with local roots and decision-making close to the communities that it affects.  The efforts being made by the parc to innovate and find new mooring techniques that have a lesser impact on our environment was particularly useful to learn about in the Torbay context and something that both parties agreed to keep in contact during the next phases of the trials that would continue in the Crozon peninsula in near future.  Before returning to Saint Brieuc, a brief but informative visit took place to the Thalasso in Roscoff which presented ‘food for thought’ for Torbay in relation to the future potential that health tourism and sea water spa tratement might play in revitalising the 19th and 20th century resort infrastructures to the potential demands of the future.  With ageing populations and a shift towards the health prevention agenda, projects like spa and treatment centres could be models which might be looked at more closely by local authority, tourism, education providers and health authority stakeholders in the Torbay area. Again the Thalasso offered to retain contacts with Torbay to see if the market in the UK might develop in this regard.   

During a presentation on masterplanning in the Port of Le Legue, Torbay’s experience with master planning was extremely helpful in helping the different local partners in St Brieuc responsible for the Port of Legue to come together.  Stakeholders responsible for the regeneration of Le Legue are keen to add to its  on small and medium sized marine industry investments.  The main difference with the Tor Bay economy was the potential development opportunities that might arise from the recently announced wind farms that are due to be constructed off the Saint Brieuc coast.  Construction, operation and maintenance all present significant opportunities for the Port of Le Legue once construction on the offshore wind farms gets underway in 2017.

A discussion took place on opportunity for maritime infrastructure investments under the new operational programmes for ERDF and ESF in Brittany and South Devon.  Competitition for funds under the ERDF mainstream programmes is significant and with potentially significant challenges facing both programmes small and medium sized ports would have to compete for the available funds. Both parties agreed that with a thematic approach to the new programmes in the 2014-2020 period, it is essential to have clear economic impact assessment models for small and medium sized harbours  so that decision makers can appreciate the the return of investment from maritime infrastructures.  Funds such as INTERREG V, would be essential, through collaboration projects like FLIP, to complement and support maritime investments in the next seven years. Whilst Brittany for example has made rural broadband a strategic priority for the next programming, the port of Le Legue has secured reference in the programme negotiations so far.  The picture is similar in Torbay where Local Economic Partnership Strategic Investment plans need to recognise the strategic importance of regeneration in coastal infrastructures to the South West’s economy as EU funding for infrastructure becomes more and more limited.