MINEHEAD and Watchet's fisherman have been left reeling at proposals to bring in permits to fish along the towns' harbour walls.

West Somerset Council was due to decide yesterday afternoon whether to pass measures which would require fishermen to pay £10 for a weekly permit, £20 for a monthly permit or £50 for a monthly permit.

However fishermen in Minehead say the fees are unfair and unwarranted as fishing off the harbour walls has been free as long as they can remember.

Steve Pilbrow, treasurer for the Minehead and District Sea Angling Club said: "Some of our members are older and not capable of fishing on the beaches but the harbour gives them a safe place to pursue their hobby.

"It will affect local traders, many people come from away to fish in Minehead. They pay to stay in the car park, they will use the pub, the cafes and the fishing tackle shop here but if they have to pay £10 a time, they might be put off and go elsewhere. There is not enough to support this end of town as it is, this would annihilate it. The facilities here are poor and need upgrading."

Fellow fisherman Clem Thomas added: "I have been fishing here for 60 years - a lot of older people enjoy it but this could put them off pursuing their hobby. How are they planning to enforce it? They cannot have someone here 24/7 and yet often people fish overnight if the tide is in."

West Somerset Council was due to vote on the matter at its meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Chris Hall, operations manager for West Somerset Council states that the money raised from the new fees will be ring-fenced for the operation of the harbour.

Mr Hall writes: "A new permit is being proposed for the provision of a safe position to fish from the harbour wall in Minehead and Watchet, by purchasing a permit users will agree to the rules which will limit the negative impact and unsafe practice that can occasionally be identified. Anecdotal evidence suggests WSC fees are lower than other ports."