Mixed reviews have followed the announcement of a £5million upgrade of the Milford Haven marina.

Milford Haven Port Authority has joined forces with the marina operating company, Cardiff Marine Group, to form the Pembrokeshire Marine Group.

Under the deal, the marina will remain wholly owned by the authority, with the newly-formed group taking over its management.

The development programme is due to start early next year and looks set to include the upgrading of the existing 328 berths, the provision of around 250 new bertsh and the creation of a new ‘launch on demand’ service.

Future proposals also include a new locking system to enable access to the marina and docks at all states of the tide, and the possible provision of a dry stack berthing facility.

The group will also be establishing joint marketing initiatives, including regular flotilla cruises between Milford and Cardiff.

Port authority chief executive Alec Don said: "We strongly believe that the marine leisure sector is capable of playing a much larger role in the Pembrokeshire economy.

"As well as directly benefiting businesses in the immediate vicinity, we are confident that Pembrokeshire Marine Group will attract other third party investors to the town centre of Milford Haven."

But local reactions are not so sure. Many shopkeepers had little to say on the new plans as they were unaware of the details.

"Eighty per cent of the shops here are not open on Mondays, so the letter from the port authority, that was delivered on Monday, inviting people to a meeting that same night, was simply useless.

"There seems to be a lack of communication between them and us," said Roy Bond of the Quayside Art and Framing Studio.

Apathy among other local shop-keepers was clear.

"People who come here on ship cruises are shoved into coaches and get taken straight to Tenby or St David's.

"No wonder the marina is so undervalued, we are simply overlooked; and when visitors do come, they never get past Charles Street," said Rob Howard, who runs Latitude on the marina.

But county councillor Anne Hughes, who is also a member of the port authority board, said: "It can only be a good thing, as the plans will enhance the marina, encourage new users and bring more jobs to the area."

Also welcoming the announcement was Assembly Member Nerys Evans, who said: "This is very welcoming news and is a big boost to the town. "Hopefully this development will help benefit existing local businesses as well as attracting other businesses to invest in the area.

"The local economy in general should benefit which is what we desperately need during these testing times."

Currently, around half of the properties are bare and vacant with no prospect of new ownership.

"Obviously undressed bare windows will turn people away. This could actually be a lovely place, but it’s just been badly managed," claimed Latitude owner Dave Stephens.

"Security is also very poor. We were told to put Christmas decorations up but our wreaths were ripped down and vandalised.

"Will this money be used to do what’s needed? They have to sort simple things like this out first before they can make big plans for new development,"

But more positive view was taken by Milford county councillor Rhys Sinnett.

He said: "It is a welcome boost at a difficult time. The works planned will be specialised, but I’m sure we have all the necessary expertise locally and I hope the Pembrokeshire Marine Group will take advantage of that."