Lower Exe Mooring Authority - Info - History

Lower Exe Mooring Authority


1967 'The Right to Moor' in the Lower Exe Estuary.


A mooring is a buoyed, permanent anchor, providing the vessel using it a safe anchorage on its return.

The Law:

'Navigation in tidal waters is a public right. Anchoring, as a necessary part of navigation, was also a public right. However, a rare event in English legal history occurred in 1967 which judicially 'extinguished' the public right to moor. A much respected High Court judge (Justice Megaw) delivered a judgment (in Fowley Marine v. Gafford) which effectively abolished the ancient public right to lay and maintain a mooring to facilitate the navigation of a vessel using it'.

(Sir Ian Sinclair QC. SAILING TODAY Magazine)

As a result of this ruling the owners of the river bed in the lower Exe estuary, The Crown and East Devon District Council (EDDC), exercise their right to license and charge an annual fee for mooring in the lower Exe estuary.


MOALEX - 1979 to 1995 Summary

 By John Fletcher, who served on the Committee throughout the period. 14th November 2008

  The history of the Mooring Association of the Lower Exe is a remarkable success story. lt is also a rare example of true local democracy with a small 'd', in action, totally devoid of the influence of modern local party  politics. It was set up of, by and for mooring owners who were anxious to establish voluntary control of moorings throughout the whole of the navigable river for the benefit of all river users. It entailed 16 years of very hard work on the part of many individuals, at the end of which mooring control had indeed been established in all areas of the river, although the Earl of Devon now operates commercial control over a relatively small area. The committee met around 12 times a year with 75% plus attendances for many years, with additional individual tasks and subcommittee work being carried out. It only had two chairmen throughout this period, the founding chairman, Ron Lavis of the Exe Sailing Club, from 1979 to 1986 and Roger Howell  of Starcross Yacht Club, from 1986 until 1995, for whose leadership all mooring owners owe a great debt. Grateful mention must also be made of those six colleagues who served on the Moalex committee and died during that time, three of whom were still serving at the time of their untimely deaths.

 From it's inception in 1979, progress was initially excellent, with voltmtary control being established at the lower end of the river by 1983. By 1987, local mooring committees had been established in all the major mooring areas. However, the claim to ownership of a large part of the river by the Earl of Devon in 1987 set things back by around 7 years in some areas and resulted finally in commercial control being applied in the area north of Starcoss to Powderham. By 1995, with mooring control established throughout the river and the Exe Management Plan being proposed, Moalex had served it's purpose and a new approach was needed to fend off the bureaucrats and defend all river users' rights.

 In addition to establishing mooring control, many other problems were addressed and service provided through regular newsletters. This included such things as setting out mooring specifications, researching galvanic corrosion problems and providing a marine services directory. In the early days much work was involved in surveying, registering and plotting moorings and in researching the very complex ownership of the various areas of riverbed, followed by many hours of negotiation with the bodies concerned.

 The writer convened the first public meeting at the Exe Sailing Club in 1979, was vice-chairman up until 1985 and remained on the committee until the winding up of MOALEX in 1995. He was also the Vice Chairman of the Mooring Authority Management Committee, now known as LEMA, from its formation in 1983 until 1986 and remained on the committee for several more years. This entailed fortnightly meetings throughout the initial few months as well as much work for individuals. The writer drew up the mooring specifications in consultation with local mooring layers, and produced the first business plan and budget which enabled licence fees to remain constant for the first 7 years of operation.

 MOALEX and LEMA were often confused but had very different functions. MOALEX existed to promote voluntary control throughout the river and spawned mooring management committees in several areas, which operate in parallel. The first one to be set up was LEMA whose function was to regulate and control moorings in the lower part of the Exe as effectively and economically as possible, for the benefit of local mooring owners.



  Based on the 26 issues of 'The Mole', the News Letter of the Association

 1979 - Summer Exe Sailing Club meeting of cruiser members discussed need for mooring control. Needed support of all mooring owners, the majority of whom were not members of any club or association, to be effective.

September Public meeting convened at ESC. Good support but many independent mooring owners suspicious of Clubs. Need to form a broad based, independent organisation. Elected a steering committee to formulate proposals, establish a committee and draft a constitution.

1980 - December Steering Committee reported to first AGM. Scope widened to cover the whole of the navigable river, from Topsham to the sea. Constitution adopted with the following aims:

1. To work towards the establishment of a single official control body to protect the rights of mooring owners, organise moorings safely and more efficiently; and investigate all possible methods of establishing such control and inspection; and to ensure that all navigation channels are kept clear at all times.

2. To establish advisory, cost sharing and servicing facilities for the benefit of members, investigate corrosion problems and ensure that all moorings are safe and adequate.

1981 - March First issue of 'The Mole' newsletter. Investigation of plans by Exeter City Cotmcil planning to set up River Commission to control moorings and navigation. Complex ownership of riverbed established south of Starcross Pier, mooring specifications drawn up and published together with advice on mooring corrosion.

November 'The Mole' No 2. Large-scale charts commissioned from the Admiralty to allow detailed plotting. Surveying and plotting method established and moorings plotted in Shelly and bight deepwater areas. Dock closed to small craft and dredged to accommodate more shipping. Many new moorings laid, saturation reached in some areas.

1982 - August 'The Mole' No 3. EDDC welcomed MOALEX proposal to control moorings within it's area. Negotiations with EDDC to set up an agency agreement well advanced. Management Committee of 9 members, 6 elected by Moalex, 2 from EDDC and 1 from ECC with 'the intention that the Committee will represent the majority view of MOALEX. '

1983 - January 'The Mole' No 4. Lower Exe Mooring Management Committee established, (name changed to Lower Exe Mooring Authority Management Committee, known as MAMC, and later changed to LEMA). ECC decline to be represented.

April Licensing scheme introduced by MAMC (now LEMA). Estimated 600 deepwater moorings in Area of jurisdiction.

May 'The Mole' No 5. ECC still set on Act of Parliament route to take control of river.

December 'The Mole' No 6. Progress made in establishing ownership of riverbed north of Starcross. Negotiations underway to establish similar controls to that already established at the southern end by MAMC.

1984 - August 'The Mole' No 7. Fairways Committee proposed with support of the RYA and the Crown Estates Commissioners as a non-profit, largely voluntary alternative to the ECC proposal for a Harbour Authority set up by Act of Parliament. Public meetings held and proposalssent to all ECC, EDDC and TDDC councillors working on the ECC Harbour Authority scheme.

1985 - January 'The Mole' No 8. Edmund Whelan, RYA barrister, drawing up Fairways Committee constitution in conjunction with MOALEX steering committee. Resistance to paying licence fees to MAMC (LEMA) by commercial boat owners necessitates first court action

1985 - June 'The Mole' No.9. MAMC (LEMA) win County Court case for the removal of a 'rogue mooring'. Court ruling that fishermen have ancient right to have moorings off Shelly. (Subsequently, deal done with fishermen to restrict their moorings to the Bight area in return for free mooring licences.) Fairways Steering Committee, including representation from Devon Trust for Nature and the Nature Conservancy Council, finalise the Constitution. Well supported by all Clubs and other interested bodies, but local authorities are awaiting ECC's Harbour Authority proposals. Attempts made to meet with ECC to seek support for a Fairways Committee, or alternatively, to incorporate voluntary bodies such as MOALEX and the conservancy groups to 'organise river interests in a voluntary and economic fashion' within their proposals.

November 'The Mole' No 10. Following successful court actions, MAMC (LEMA) established firm control, removing rogue and unlicensed moorings to EDDC premises in Camperdown Terrace when necessary and have achieved almost complete collection of licence fees from identified mooring owners, (only 8 owners in arrears), with improved relations with Commercial Mooring Owners. ECC determined to become an active harbour authority through a Harbour Revision Order. Crown Estates Commissioners more likely to prefer this route to granting a regulating lease to a Fairways Committee. MOALEX seeking talks with ECC.

1986 - June 'The Mole' No 11. Positive contact made with ECC's new Director of Leisure and Tourism with regard to the proposed Harbour Revision Order. Suggested that ECC consider voluntary groups like MAMC could operate in a similar way in other areas e.g. off Starcross. MAMC identified 490 moorings with 4 licensees in arrears in licensing year 1985/86.

December 'The Mole' No 12. ECC officers report to Leisure Committee that it would cost of around £60.000 to run a Harbour Authority, to be substantially derived from the owners of the 1500 moorings which they had established to exist on the river. Agreement reached with EDDC, TDDC and ECC that MOALEX should initiate the formation of a Starcross Mooring Committee to control moorings with a similar arrangement as with MAMC on the basis of a lease from the Crown Estates Commissioners to TDDC.  MAMC identified 560 moorings during 1986, of which 520 were now licensed, leaving 40 to be pursued. No increase in fees proposed for 1987, with no increase for the first 5 years of operation.  Further report on galvanic corrosion problems.

1987 - June 'The Mole' No 13. Four mooring areas designated Starcross, Powderham, Lympstone and Topsham proposed and accepted at AGM in January, now have groups actively working towards establishing control of moorings. Complex negotiations needed involving all relevant local authorities and Crown Estates Commissioners, which will take a long time. MAMC have so far identified 589 of an original estimate of 600 moorings and have licensed 561.

1988 -January & July 'The Mole' Nos 14 & 15. Topsham area now well under way, leases drafted and committee operating. The Earl of Devon, Lord Courtney, contests Crown ownership of riverbed south of N0 25 Buoy. Talks held with Lord Courtney & Crown Estates to try to set up interim control at Starcross without success. Independently, Starcross Yacht Club seek lease from Crown Estates for their mooring area off Powderham north of No 25 Buoy. Other areas await outcome of Lord Courtney's claim. MAMC now working very well with 625 moorings licensed. ·

1989 - January 'The Mole' No. l6. Topsham area making good progress. 200 attend public meeting and vote unanimously to support a Topsham Mooring Committee. Details of 175 moorings recorded with a view to starting operating in 1989 season. Negotiation on cost of leases continuing with District valuer and Crown Estates. MAMC now licensed 639 moorings. Still a few boats breaking free, mainly due to failure of shackles and swivels. Attention drawn to need for regular inspection.

June 'The Mole' No 17. Uncertainty continues with slow progress of Earl of Devon's claim. Topsham Mooring Committee commences operating but leases not finalised. A 15 year lease is planned to commence early in 1990. MAMC now have 659 moorings licensed, which now includes 54 drying moorings at the rear of Camperdown Terrace which were not included in the original scheme but were taken into control after EDDC action to clear up the area in 1987.

December 'The Mole' No 18. MOALEX Constitution changed to reflect change in current needs, with 10 committee members, two from each mooring area throughout the river. Topsham obtained a licence from Crown Estates in July. Initial licence fee of £5 with 201 moorings plotted and licensed. Cost of leases not yet finalised. Progress slow in other areas as Earl of Devon extends claim to stretch south from a line joining Lympstone to Turf. MAMC recorded and licensed virtually 100% of 660. Need to increase licence fees next year for first time after 7 years operation. So far, increasing numbers of licensed moorings had compensated for increased costs. Several court cases this are year likely to cost 25% of income but two major cases in the Camperdown area had been won and costs awarded to MAMC.

1990 - July 'The Mole' No 19. Topsham Mooring Committee now into second season with nearly 300 moorings registered. Negotiations over rental continue. Devon County Council announce a second Exe Estuary Study, initiated by the conservationists. Formation of Exe Estuary Association of clubs and associations, including MOALEX, to present a unified approach. MAMC, now referred to as LEMA to distinguish it from other areas of control, continues to be effective.

1991 - January 'The Mole' No 20. Plotting of all Topsham moorings now completed. Earl of Devon's claim still stagnating, preventing progress elsewhere. Cost of Topsham leases still under negotiation. Crown Estates dramatically increase charges elsewhere, notably Lymington. ExeEstuary Study made slow start. LEMA, (formerly MAMC), continue to operate effectively with no further increase in charges.

June 'The Mole' No 21.Crown Estates and Earl of Devon in talks to achieve a settlement, failing which it will go to court in 1992. This issue has prevented progress on setting up mooring committees to cover the rest of the estuary in a similar manner to LEMA, which had been established by public agreement in 1987. Cost of Topsham leases, covering 350 moorings still under negotiation. Exeter area lease likely to be around £6950 + VAT.

1992 - January 'The Mole' No 22. Topsham leases still under negotiation. Mooring area falls into Teignbridge, Exeter and East Devon Council's areas, each negotiating separately, with widely fluctuating valuations around the country. RYA to approach Crown Estates with proposals for a common valuation basis. Exe Estuary Study fact finding is now virtually complete. LEMA now have 725 moorings, of which 721 are currently licensed. Lease for LEMA area now under negotiation, which will mean an increase in licence fees for 1993.

July 'The Mole' Nos 23 and 24. The Earl of Devon's claim against the Crown Estates finally settled out of court, giving the Earl control of the drying areas to the west of the LEMA area and continuing north to include all of the Manor of Kenton. Deepwater moorings north of Starcross Pier as far as No 25 Buoy and some of the further moorings off Lympstone are included. LEMA and Starcross Yacht Club's areas are not affected. Topsham area leases still not finalised but the Mooring Committee continue to operate under their interim licence from Crown Estates. RYA still pursuing valuation proposals with Crown Estates. Phase 2 of Exe Estuary Study, Preparation of Draft Management Proposals, due for completion in September.

1993 - January 'The Mole' No 25.Topsham leases still not settled and Crown Estates reluctant to accept RYA proposals. Earl of' Devon asked how he will approach control of moorings but no response as yet. Ownership of areas of Lympstone moorings now finally established but very complicated. Exe Estuary Study management options to go to Devon County Council for consideration in January.

November 'The Mole' No 26. Topsham leases still not finalised but a charge of around £1. and £1 .50 per foot has been charged in anticipation of a settlement with payments being phased in over 5 years.Lympstone Mooring Committee now established. Main mooring area owned by Mrs Clark of Nutwell Estates, who will not ask for rental, and the area north of Darling Rock by the Crown Estates. Initial licence fee set at £1. per foot. Starcross mooring owners received demands of £3.95 + VAT per foot. Starcross Watermans Association, SWAN, formed to represent mooring owners interests with the support of the RYA. The much delayed Exe Estuary Management Proposals due in December.Proposed Change of MOALEX Constitution: Since 1979 MOALEX has helped to establish voluntary mooring control throughout most of the river, meeting it's primary objective. With only 230 members it is not fully representative of all 1500 plus Exe mooring owners. Committee meetings are now essentially a forum for local mooring committee members to discuss common problems. It is proposed to remove individual membership and replace it by a membership composed of representatives from the committees, associations or clubs that administer moorings. Over the years confusion has existed between the functions of LEMA and MOALEX, which both have Lower Exe in their titles. It is proposed to change the name to the Exe Mooring Association. Objects would remain unchanged.

1994 - December 'The Mole' No 27. Final Edition. The much delayed Exe Study Management Proposals finally appeared. MOALEX replied with 6 pages of detailed correction and criticism. The approximately 1500 mooring owners were to contribute 80% of cost Final AGM to be held in January 1995 to consider the Exe Estuary Study and it's implications, progress in forming user group to re-examine the proposals and to reconstitute MOALEX as part of that group.

1995 - January. Final AGM held. MOALEX wound up and reconstituted as part of Exe Estuary Users Association. (EEUA)

John Fletcher.  November 2008



1995   -     East Devon District Council, EDDC, as both the Crown Agents lessees and part owners of the river bed, met with the retire MOALEX committee members and gave the mooring owners the authority to elect a new committee. This committee, to be called the Lower Exe Mooring Association (LEMA), was authorised to act as the agents for EDDC in the matter or licensing and managing moorings in the Lower Exe Estuary.  A written agreement, to which both parties were to comply, known as The EDDC/LEMA Agreement, was established.  The current agreement runs until September 2012. LEMA employs.

2000  -    The revised EDDC/LEMA Agreement re-named the LEMA Committee as The Lower Exe Mooring Authority Management Committee. This Agreement originally ran until September 2012 but was extended for a further 2 years

2014  -    East Devon District Council, (EDDC) and The Lower Exe Mooring Authority Management Committee (LEMA)  agreed to establish The Lower Exe Mooring Administration Limited Company (LEMA Ltd.) LEMA Ltd now act as the Agents for EDDC to license and manage the moorings in the Lower Exe Estuary.