Large swathes of council-owned land at Perth harbour could be sold off if it is agreed this would best serve the future prosperity of the port.
Councillors will be asked to approve the marketing of the council’s operational and land interests in order to gauge private sector interest in acquiring them.
“This will help inform the council in reaching a decision as to how best to maximise the harbour’s contribution to the economic development of Perth and Kinross,” said David Littlejohn, head of planning and regeneration, in a report to the strategic and policy and resources committee.
“The Perth City Plan promotes the council’s ambitions for enhanced activity along the riverside and increased use of the river for recreation as part of the drive to grow year-round tourism in the city and its environs.
“Pragmatically, the industrial nature of the harbour area severely limits leisure-related opportunities and, therefore, the council has continued to operate the harbour as an industrial and commercial facility in an effort to promote trade.
“Despite this, trade and income has continued to decline.
“In many respects the harbour is one of the reasons why Perth was founded in its present location, at the farthest navigable point on the river Tay.
“The medieval harbour lay at the foot of the High Street and as the river silted, and boats became larger, it moved to the bottom of Canal Street, then to the Merchant’s Quay at the South Inch, and finally to its current location at Friarton.”
The decline of the harbour began in the mid 19th century with the arrival of the railway to Perth and increased ship sizes as sail gave way to steam.
Mr Littlejohn added: “Perth harbour’s decline has been more or less continual since then and now it has once again become constrained by its geography in the sense that the largest vessels that can berth at Perth are the smallest being built commercially.”
The council has made considerable investment of nearly £2 million in the harbour over the last 20 years and, if it retains its holdings, more investment would likely be required.
The value of the council’s property interests at the harbour at the moment is around £750,000.
“The harbour has played a significant role in Perth’s history and development as an industrial centre,” Mr Littlejohn added.
“Although its heyday was over 150 years ago, it nonetheless continues to make a modest contribution to the area’s economy.
“If the status quo is maintained, and no further capital investment is made, it is certain that the commercial viability of the harbour will be further eroded to the point that it may cease to be used.
“Ultimately the council could decide to retain the harbour and, in an effort to compete for additional port business, agree to make a significant capital investment. Approximately £5.7m will be required over a five-to-seven-year period.
“Before making such a significant investment decision, and given that operating a harbour is not a core local government function, it would be prudent to explore private sector investment appetite to take on the council’s operational business and long ground lease investment interest.”