In 1994 we were approached by West Somerset District Council to produce a masterplan for the conversion of Watchet’s drying harbour from commercial use to leisure. Key to this redevelopment was the provision of an impounded basin so that yachts could be berthed on pontoon berths. There had been several previous attempts at producing a plan for the harbour’s conversion but none of them were economically viable.
A particular difficulty in developing a plan for the marina was the exposure of the harbour’s western breakwater which is subject to over-topping in severe weather. This exposure also made the harbour challenging to enter in strong westerly winds. Our solution was to impound only the eastern half of the harbour by constructing a cross wall within the harbour. This retained a tidal outer harbour which was relatively easy to enter; any over-topping would also take place in the outer harbour, not the marina basin. The plan was adopted and the marina opened for business in 2001.
Our masterplan included a commercial development of the East Quay area to provide additional revenue but this element of the scheme has been problematic to deliver. Now, finally, it seems as if the development may happen. A local community interest group called the Onion Collective was granted planning consent in July 2018 for a scheme that includes holiday pods, offices, a restaurant and an art gallery. The scheme is expected to cost circa £7m with £5m coming from the Big Lottery’s coastal communities fund. Various other grants have also been obtained with the final funding element being a loan of up to £1.5m from the new Taunton Council (due to replace West Somerset Council in April 2019).
Construction is due to commence on site in autumn 2019 and run to spring 2021 which will finally complete our masterplan for the harbour, 27 years after it was drawn.