Speech by Admiral of the Fleet The Earl Mountbatten of Burma on 4th May 1968 at the Opening of Lymington Marina
My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am told that the modern definition of the word Marina is “a harbour for leisure craft providing sheltered and easily accessible alongside moorings and facilities.”
This very brief description certainly embraces what we see here today at Lymington Marina. Besides providing sheltered and easily accessible moorings, the facilities available are considerable. Mr May has admitted that there is an American influence in his development. He almost said it apologetically, but can we be wrong in following the lead of another nation who have more development experience in this field than we have in England. Some of the fringes available here – plug in telephone at individual pontoon berths, an ice making machine, and even Carmen hair curling rollers that can be rented – may be regarded initially as gimmicks but I am sure that they will soon become part of the generally accepted Marina scene.
Mr May has rather light heartedly mentioned the difficulties he experienced in the early stages and the 10 years of preparation and ground work which has resulted in this development. I would venture to suggest that some older and less progressive Managing Directors would have found the frustrations sufficiently wearing to give up the struggle. Nevertheless they all add up to a fearful indication of the inefficiency which, coupled with strikes for higher pay when they are not justified by higher productivity, is bringing our country to the verge of bankruptcy. I quote again from his experiences: months and months to obtain the Outline Planning Permission, and then only after Sherlock Holmes measures had been applied; British Railways lost the trolleys; the G.P.O. lost the overalls; British Road Services lost the fittings for the Toilet Block; the Customs at London Airport lost the electrical fittings. What hope has our unfortunate country got of making a financial recovery in the face of such terrifying examples of incompetence and indifference.
But there are encouraging signs of efficiency, competence and enthusiasm for without these Mr May and his Company would never have risen above these appalling setbacks and nevertheless have completed the Marina to schedule.
Mr May has mentioned that my wife’s father and grandfather had a real interest in the Berthon Boat Company. This was because the Reverend Berthon, who invented the original collapsible boat, was the Vicar of Romsey Abbey, and their personal friend. I have had personal experience of Berthon Boats, for we carried two of them onboard the Anti Submarine Escort, H.M.S. “P 31” when I was her First Lieutenant and Second in Command in 1918 during World War I. We would never have had room to carry boats of this size if they hadn’t been collapsible; and very good they were too.
There always seems to be people, particularly in rural areas who at once object to any proposed change of scenery and outlook. Rather than considering detailed plans on their merits, they take the easiest line which is to say “no”. But change and modernisation must come and although it is wise to have built into our democratic system safeguards for the protection of the individual citizen, we must be careful that these measures of protection do not disproportionately inhibit change and development which, on completion, are hailed as a substantial improvement for the common good. I cannot imagine, for instance, that this Lymington Marina development can bring anything but increased prosperity to the Borough of Lymington and the neighbourhood. As Governor of the Isle of Wight I know that the Lymington to Yarmouth ferry route is one of the more popular ones. So I am glad to see continued expansion taking place on this side.
Turning for a moment to the question of costs, some yachtsmen say that “a boat is a hole in the water surrounded by wood into which one pours money.” Mr May, of course, denies this vigorously. To be serious though, the charges for a Marina berth at £7 per foot overall length per annum would, a few years ago, have sounded outrageous – perhaps they do to some today ? With space for moorings at a premium everywhere, the demand is such that it has only recently become economic to spend large sums of money on dredging and capital works to provide the sort of ideally convenient facilities in front of us today. The days of mud flats, old punts as tenders and taking all day to prepare for sea in a leisurely fashion are, for the majority of yachtsmen, on the way out. The man who nowadays can afford a yacht is very well aware of all his costs and one excellent feature of Marina living is the potential increase in boat utilisation. Another point is that in the winter we often have more settled weather than at times during the summer. With the comforts of shore side electrical heating available, I can see people using their boats all the year round.
On the 20th April I addressed a public meeting at Cowes called by the Solent Protection Society. I complained that planning in this area had started with the Buchanan Study for Southern Hampshire; this had later been followed by the South East Strategy; to date there had been no National Plan. The South East Strategy envisaged an overspill from London being accommodated between Portsmouth and Southampton. But Newcastle have said they would prefer the London overspill to go to the North instead of to South Hampshire and have asked the Government not to approve the South East Strategy. I suggested that instead of topsy turvy planning we should start again and do it logically; first a National Plan, then Regional Strategies to comply with this, and finally Local County Studies. I was accused of talking “Dangerous Nonsense”. I leave it to you to judge which method of planning is in fact “Dangerous Nonsense”.
I said, earlier on, we must be careful that protective measures do not inhibit change for the better. I stick by that. But a change on this scale must be shown to be for the better of the country as a whole before it is adopted and this cannot be judged until we have seen and studied a sensible National Plan first. And a National Plan that has taken into account the various regional and local views, and has borne in mind the paramount importance of preserving certain areas of natural beauty where people can come to relax and enjoy themselves in really pleasant surroundings.
I spend the summer holidays with my daughter’s and grandchildren at my place in Ireland. Here I keep a cabin cruiser, really a glorified Irish Fishing Boat, which gives us all great pleasure. But in the days before the war, when I had a 66 ton yacht, I used to keep her in Chichester harbour with all the inconvenience which a modern Marina overcomes. If I did my yachting in England now, I would put in a bid for a berth here in Lymington Marina, though I doubt whether my Irish Boat, “Shadow V” would be up to the standard of the yachts I see here. How enormously yachting has increased since the war, and how popular it has become. Let us hope that this expansion will continue. Yachting and boating are no longer a purely rich man’s sport. And I am delighted to see the expansion of facilities, as evidenced here.
I have much pleasure in declaring the Lymington Marina officially open.