THE beleaguered operator of Watchet Marina has shown proof of funding which will take its parent company out of administration, it was claimed this week.

Somerset Council, which is negotiating a lease for Christopher Odling-Smee to run the marina for the next 200 years, said the new finance would refloat The Marine and Property Group (MPG).

The Free Press reported last month how Mr Odling-Smee had told MPG’s administrators he wanted to buy back the company.

MPG, which also owns four marinas in Wales and four other companies, went into administration in April with £16 million debts and only £2 million of assets.

Somerset executive Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts told the Free Press the current lease on Watchet Marina was still owned by former operator Tim Taylor, who was in the process of selling it to Mr Odling-Smee

Cllr Smith-Roberts said: “The ongoing sale is a private matter between the two parties.

“The lease had over 100 years remaining.

“However, Somerset Council, through a decision of the former Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT), agreed an extension to a total length of 200 years, subject to sale of the lease completing.

“The council, which remains the freehold owner, supported this extension to enable growth and enhancement of the marina, which is an important venue for tourism and for current and future job opportunities.”

Cllr Smith-Roberts was leader of SWT when it took the decision to extend the Watchet lease.

She said: “There will be no changes to the existing lease until such a time that the Marine Group have exercised their right to purchase from Tim Taylor.”

Cllr Smith-Roberts said the council would not comment on the financial arrangements of a third party.

But she wanted to clarify that MPG was depositing funds into Watchet Marina Ltd, an MPG subsidiary, to support the harbour's operation.

She said: “They advised that these funds would be available by the end of August, but this date was not given as a deadline by the council.

“This is different to the wider refinancing of MPG and its subsidiaries.

“This element is being addressed via the administration and refinancing process of the MPG, which is what the council has seen proof of funding for.”

Cllr Smith-Roberts said she could confirm that the ‘first tranche’ of funding for Watchet had been deposited.

She said: “Watchet Marina Ltd remains operational and a level of funding to support this has been identified by the Marine Group.

“They will continue to use this funding as and when it is necessary.”

The news broke as administrators for two more of the marinas in Wales - Aberystwyth and Cardiff - reported on their proposals for the companies.

In the case of Aberystwyth, administrator Damian Webb said the company’s debt was estimated at £10.8 million.

He said it consistently failed to service interest on its debt, and employee wages remained two months behind.

Mr Webb said for the previous two years the company had not submitted VAT or corporation tax returns, resulting in HM Revenue and Customs issuing a winding-up order in the High Court for £304,000, before administrators were appointed.

He said the proposed course of action was to continue to trade the company for four to six months from September to allow it to be sold and raise some money for preferential creditors but there was not likely to be any funds for unsecured creditors.

About 30 people had already shown an interest in purchasing the company.

Mr Webb said he understood funds had gone into the company’s pre-appointment HSBC Bank account but ‘we currently have no visibility on this account’.

He said the firm had not paid any rent to Ceredigion Council, from which it leased the marina, nor to the Welsh Government which owned Harbour House commercial units which Mr Odling-Smee’s company rented out.

In relation to Cardiff Marine Services (CMS), which ran a marina in Watkiss Way, Cardiff, for which Mr Webb was also administrator, he said the company refinanced in August, 2022, with TAB London Ltd which secured its loan against several assets.

He said the picture was a similar to the one in Aberystwyth, but the HMRC winding-up petition this time was for £1.8 million and the total debt was estimated at £3.5 million.

The proposal was again to trade the company for four to six months to allow a sale and raise some funds for preferential creditors and again there was unlikely to be any money for those which were unsecured.

Mr Webb said staff for the various marinas within MPG were employed by CMS and following administration 20 had been directly transferred onto the books at Watchet, Aberystwyth, Port Dinorwic, and Burry Port, while 20 staff had been made redundant.

He said the company owned three specialised water-injection dredging vessels, Doonhammer, Innovation, and Seaka, which historically had been valued at £500,000.

Doonhammer was subject to a mortgage with Pro Marine Finance Ltd, on which there was £189,000 outstanding.

It had been agreed to pay £2,165 a month for continued use of Doonhammer.

Mr Webb said there was £1.6 million owed to directors from within Bayscape Group, of which Mr Odling-Smee was also director.

However, he said insolvency proceedings were being taken against a number of Bayscape companies so it was uncertain if any debt would be recoverable.

Last month, administrators for Burry Port and Port Dinorwic marinas said neither company could be saved as debts were estimated at £4.4 million and £3.8 million, respectively.