Sand dredging of Tenby Harbour is taking place this week ahead of the boats’ return to the water next month.

Harbour and North Beach users have been warned of the dredging taking place over a four-day period from Monday (March 20) which sees the annual operation of sand being removed from the mouth of the harbour and deposited at the north end of the beach.

Harbourmaster Chris Salisbury has urged members of the public: “Please be aware of heavy moving machinery on the beach from Monday, March 20 to 23.

“We ask that the public please keep clear of the operating area and that dogs are kept on the lead during this time.”

Dredging has taken place annually around the harbour area over the past few years, after concerns were expressed by local councillors and harbour users that high levels of sandbanks that were forming, were causing disruption to boats entering and exiting the area.

Pembrokeshire County Council has come in for heavy criticism of late for not tackling the problem, with some harbour users voicing their concerns that it is becoming ‘unworkable’.

Renewed calls have been made to the Local Authority regarding operational difficulties at the harbour, with fears expressed that the area will become unusable if sandbanks continue to develop at an alarming rate. Councillors and members of Tenby Harbour Users Association have previously flagged-up concerns to Pembrokeshire County Council about the high level of sand sweeping towards Goscar Rock across the North Beach, leaving high sandbanks around a large section of the harbour seabed, making it difficult for boats to get in and out of the area.

County councillor for Tenby’s North ward Cllr Michael Williams recently underlined the ongoing concerns ahead of another holiday season for the seaside town.

“Such are the limitations now in Tenby harbour, it might be time to review the level of harbour dues in particular as they relate to commercial users, as they find it more and more difficult to use the harbour, but the limitations of access to moorings affects all users,” he stated to the Observer last month.

“There should be a critical examination of what exactly mooring holders pay for, and does what they pay reflect value for money? Access has recently become difficult and indeed can be dangerous to visiting fin keel yachts such is the limitations on vessel draft.

“I note that many nautical almanacs no longer offer correct advice to visiting vessels due to the diminishing depth available when entering the harbour,” he continued.

Cllr Williams has also written to PCC’s head of infrastructure Darren Thomas expressing these fresh concerns, stating: “I am increasingly concerned about the apparent siltation of Tenby harbour that is taking place.

“I have been a mooring holder for almost 60 years and in that time my ability to float to my mooring has reduced by around 50 minutes. On certain spring tides, my vessel failed to float for in excess of 24 hours.

“There is considerable concern being expressed by experienced harbour users that the harbour is becoming unviable at certain times, and the situation in the Aral sea comes to mind!

“Our harbour master does arrange a dredging of the harbour entrance each spring, but I’m afraid this exercise now bears little fruit, giving only a very short term and marginal improvement, and I fear that is now becoming futile at a considerable cost.

“I’m at a loss to offer a short-term solution, and I am completely unable to offer any thoughts which might lead to an early improvement, with the movement of sand appearing to be in a northerly direction denuding the South beach while building at an alarming rate on the North side.

“I am aware of one long term study that has been undertaken by an experienced local engineer which appeared to blame a subtle change in weather conditions exacerbating the problem, and usually being reluctant to suggest that outside consultants be used, I see no other option at this time,” he remarked.

Tenby’s Mayor and county councillor for the South ward Cllr Sam Skyrme-Blackhall has also approached PCC’s assistant chief executive Richard Brown flagging-up issues relating to sand level issues around the harbour.

“As you know the current levels of sand present both a danger and a real risk of the harbour being virtually inaccessible on certain tides,” she said.

“Although I am pleased that the scheduled work is going ahead, I can’t help feeling that this is no more than a sticking plaster and not a very good sticking plaster at that.

“I fully understand the immense budget pressures that the Authority faces and realise that there are insufficient funds for a bigger programme of works this year.

“However, it does seem that we need to have a longer term plan. I am not expecting miracles but do you think it would be possible to get a group of people together to work out a long term plan and build that into future budget plans?

“It seems to me that this is an opportunity to invest in a longer term solution and avoid these costly annual exercises that everyone recognises are not good enough.

“I know that there is a lot of expertise in the Harbour community and they would be willing to work with PCC on planning for the long term,” she stated.

On a visit to Tenby on St David’s Day, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Will Bramble visited the harbour to meet with staff it is understood, however PCC have remained tight-lipped over the talks.

The harbour boats are due to return to the water on April 5 to coincide with the Easter period.