Time’s running out for harbour daredevils

DAREDEVILS who take their lives into their own hands by launching themselves into water at a north Northumberland harbour are to be monitored, in a bid to outlaw the dangerous craze.

Warkworth Harbour Commissioners want to create a by-law to make the potentially life-threatening trend of ‘tombstoning’ an offence.

While there have been no fatalities in Amble, a growing number of thrill-seekers – both children and adults – have been throwing themselves from quayside structures into the water, with a concerning number of near misses.

The commissioners fear that those who make the potentially lethal leap do not know how deep the water is and boats can not always see them.

At the end of last year, they asked Northumberland County Council to help them create a by-law.

On Monday, the county council’s area committee north was told that meetings have taken place between the harbour commissioners, Amble county and town councillor Robert Arckless and county council officers and it has been agreed that the commissioners – who have their own by-law-making powers – will contact the Department for Transport to progress the matter.

Dr Paul Morrison, spokesman for the commissioners, said last week: “We were worried that we weren’t going to get any help but they (the county council) have worked with us and there is steady progress.

“We have been advised that we need to document cases of any tombstoning so we have some concrete evidence to present the case for a by-law.

“For this season we will be monitoring the situation to see what happens and gauging the level of what goes on. It is an ongoing process but at least it is an active one.”

The commissioners have said that they don’t want to be seen as kill-joys, but want to be a responsible harbour authority promoting a working environment that is as safe as possible.

Coun Arckless said: “The commissioners’ view on this is there is definitely an issue to be looked at. The numbers involved are quite significant and the risks are quite high. They’re aware that some people see this as an over-reaction but I think the commissioners are right to look at the problem and try to deal with it effectively.

“At the same time, the harbour commissioners recognise there are perfectly legitimate activities in the harbour and they don’t want to restrict them but they have a duty of safety to people who use the harbour.

“I am concerned. There is no way that I want to kill people’s fun. That is not what this is about. I can see why the commissioners are concerned and they have a liability under the law, I would say, to try to protect both the harbour users, and by that I mean the port users like the fishermen and also people who are using the harbour for recreation. It is about getting the balance right. If they can prove there is a serious problem and they need to act on it then I am not going to stand in their way.

“It will be interesting to see what the evidence is when they are monitoring the situation.”