THE ISLE of Wight must act now if it is to capture millions of pounds of government cash to build an outer breakwater off Cowes, according to those behind the project.
Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) said the project to provide Cowes and East Cowes with a true, sheltered harbour was vital to the Isle of Wight economy and to the future prosperity of the towns.
But the scheme faces competition from other parts of the country for crucial central government funding.
As the town hosts the world’s largest and oldest sailing regatta, Cowes Week, harbour commissioners have called on the Isle of Wight Council, local town councils and stakeholders to get behind the project.
Outlining the benefits of the project, Cowes harbourmaster, Capt Stuart McIntosh, said: "Cowes is not a natural harbour being very exposed to weather from the north and northeast, which was highlighted by gales earlier in the season resulting in the sinking of five yachts in the harbour.
"However, it is not just the harbour that the breakwater will protect and strengthen, but the local economy.
"The new breakwater will create an environment where new businesses can set up on sites which were previously too exposed, bringing new employment and investment opportunities into Cowes and the rest of the Island.
"The breakwater protection will also help extend the sailing season and there will also be scope for establishing Cowes as a destination for small visiting cruise ships through improved shelter for Trinity Landing."
Harbour commissioners, who are themselves investing £3 million into the project, were working in partnership with SEEDA until that body was abolished by government and its assets transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
The HCA has confirmed its on-going support and funding commitment for the scheme, which has all the necessary permissions in place to proceed, but it has to be shown the project has local support.
David Walters, chairman of the independent CHC advisory body – which represents harbour stakeholders and river Medina users – said they fully supported the plans.
He said: "This is something of real benefit for Cowes and East Cowes."
CHC should know by early October if it has secured the funds and, if successful, the breakwater could be in place by the end of next year.
People can show their for the project at www.cowes.co.uk/breakwater or email email@example.com