Solent Protection hosts meeting re New Ferries on Lymington to Yarmouth Route

Posted on 01 Apr 2008

Following the announcement last December by the Solent Protection Society that it has registered its objection to the introduction of the proposed larger ferries on the Lymington to Yarmouth route, the Society organized a Briefing Meeting of principal parties to further consider the situation.

The meeting, held in Lymington on 22nd April 2008, was attended by over 60 invitees and chaired by Mr Peter Nicholson, President of the Society. Introducing the meeting he said “We have been regularly consulting with the various parties concerned and felt that a meeting of all the key players to discuss the BMT SeaTech Ferry Operations Risk Assessment, Phase 1, and associated issues would be appropriate”.

Presentations were made by Mr Peter Griffiths, Chairman of Lymington Harbour Commissioners; Dr Ian Dand of BMT SeaTech; Mr Andrew Willson, Chief Executive of Wightlink; Mr Geoff Holmes, Commodore of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club; Mr Robin Dent, on behalf of Lymington Town Sailing Club and Mr Geoff Bowles, Head of Marine Development Control at the Marine & Fisheries Agency. Mr Antony Matusch, an SPS Council Member reported on the concerns in West Wight and Mr O’Flynn made a statement on behalf of the Lymington River Association.

Peter Griffiths set out the background to the current position and also the Commissioners legal duties and powers with respect to the harbour. He confirmed that the Commissioners had made the information from the BMT SeaTech report available for the Appropriate Assessment prepared by ABPMer for Wightlink. This presentation set the scene for the presentation by Ian Dand on his report “Ferry Operations at Lymington, Phase I. This presentation set out the scope, methodology and conclusions of the Phase 1 report. The key conclusions and recommendations are:

  • Make ferry waiting in the river the exception and unhindered passing the rule.
  • In peak season, increase the Harbour Master’s patrols in Short Reach, especially near the passing place.
  • Ensure that ferries continue to make sound signals on leaving the terminal when junior sailing is in progress, and make it common practice to give similar signals when inbound at the Cocked Hat navigation post.
  • Ensure that the navigation posts in the river mark the limits of the navigable channel and provide a visual indication of the channel in all conditions, including fog.
  • Install visual tide boards on navigation posts.
  • Ensure that a structured programme of trials is undertaken with the new ferries. (A preliminary template for such trials is suggested in the report).

This was followed by a presentation by Wightlink who confirmed that two vessels of the three vessels on order had been launched and would be delivered to Wightlink, in Croatia, towards the end of June/early July and arrive in the UK in mid to late July. They accepted the findings of the Risk Assessment and stated that they would work closely with the Harbour Commissioners and their consultants to resolve outstanding issues. In addition they reported that there had been additional modelling and tank testing of waterflows from the Voight Schneider units and that shore works had commenced in Yarmouth. These would be completed before the Old Gaffers Festival. Work was in hand on the Appropriate Assessment and it would shortly be delivered to defra.

The Royal Lymington Yacht Club and Lymington Town Sailing Club were particularly concerned about wind disturbance, particularly the effect of wind shadow; safe passing in the river; the hydrodynamic effects of the new vessels particularly turbulence, wash, and drawdown; sidethrust and the potential environmental impacts. The Lymington Town Sailing Club was also particularly concerned that the interests of small boat users such dinghy sailors and canoeists were taken into account and that the perceived risk presented by the ferries would have a deterrent effect on river users.

Antony Matusch made a short presentation on West Wight concerns.

The final briefing was by Geoff Bowles who explained the complex area of the consents system relating to environmental matters, described the process and how it applied to the introduction of the Wight class ferries. He focused on the Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA) and the Coastal Protection Act (CPA). FEPA applies from MHWS and controls the deposit of substances in the sea which is equivalent to planning permission on land. Harbour authorities also have powers and the CPA applies to both deposit and removal of substances where there are no other powers.

He also explained the legal basis for requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment and the impact of the Habitats Directive. If there is a potential significant impact on a special protection area an Appropriate Assessment (AA) has to be carried out. Unless it can be proved that there is no adverse impact on the integrity of the site then mitigation has to be carried out. It had been decided that an AA was necessary in this case and should cover the relevant effects of the introduction of the new vessels. MFA concluded that the proposed works do not trigger the need for a formal EIA. MFA accept that there may be localised effects from changing the vessels and these should be assessed by the AA. MFA also has to have regard to other users of the sea in reaching their decision on granting consent. He emphasised the importance of the sea trials in reaching a final decision.

A number of points were made during a lively question and answer session in which all the speakers participated. There was general agreement on the need for a modern, safe ferry service. Wightlink confirmed that the current ferries would be operating for the summer season. It was agreed that the scope of the sea trials for Phase II of the report was critical for both safety and environmental matters and the Harbour Commisioners confirmed that there will be consultation with river users on this issue. Concerns were expressed about the potential increase in lorry traffic however Steve Porter, a haulage operator also representing the IOW Chamber of Commerce, stated that the Lymington/Yarmouth route was not favoured by hauliers and he did not envisage an increase in lorry traffic with the introduction of the new ferries. Wightlink also confirmed that they were in discussions to find a solution to the marshalling problems in Yarmouth.

The Society will continue to play and active role in monitoring the situation and there will be a further report in the next newsletter.