Lymington/Yarmouth Ferries – The Society’s Position Statement

Posted on 12 Sep 2008

At the last AGM of the Society, the following resolution was passed:

“It is agreed that the Solent Protection Society will register its objection to the introduction of new ferries on the Lymington to Yarmouth route, pending the completion of the relevant competent assessments prior to the ferries entering service. These assessments must be made public”

The Society’s position has not changed.

The purpose of such an objection is to maintain the right to ask questions and where appropriate to express concern regarding the development of the project and its subsequent operation. The Society remains firmly of the opinion that reliance must be placed upon the legal process for approval of plans and projects and on the powers of the operating authority, which in this case is the Lymington Harbour Commissioners.

The Society continues to do everything possible to ensure that all relevant issues are drawn to the attention of and taken into account by the appropriate statutory authorities.

The current understanding of the Society with regard to the consents process is as follows:

Consent for Capital Works on the Lymington terminal

The application will be determined by the Marine Fisheries Authority (MFA), following advice from Natural England with respect to adjacent designated sites. Exceptionally, the MFA decided to look through the construction project to the operation of the ferries themselves. This means that the application is being given a more rigorous examination than is usual for minor works. The Society welcomes this.

Natural England has received the relevant information prepared by ABP Mer on instructions from Wightlink for the Appropriate Assessment to be carried out by the Regulators. We understand that the advice from Natural England to the MFA will not be provided until after certain aspects of the phase 2 sea trials have been completed. The Society is satisfied that Natural England are aware of all the issues and have the technical capability of making an appropriate judgment regarding the quality of the various representations made to them.

No further action on this issue is contemplated by the Society until Natural England has made its recommendations to the MFA and the MFA has published its decision regarding the application to develop the ferry terminal.

Port Marine Safety Code

Control with regard to port safety is exercised by the Lymington Harbour Commissioners through the implementation of the Port Marine Safety Code. The Society has carefully examined the phase 2 trial programme for the ferries, and has indicated its total support for the comments on the trial programme made by the Royal Lymington Yacht Club and does not need to make any further comment. It is the intention of the Society to monitor the sea trials as closely as possible.

We have been advised by the Harbour Commissioners that it will be the responsibility of Wightlink, rather than other river users, to change operating practices if needed as a result of the introduction of the new ferries.

Duty to have regard for the environment

The Society remains concerned that the statutory processes in relation to the Capital Works at the Lymington ferry terminal cannot fully address legitimate concerns regarding the ongoing potential impact of the operation of the ferries on the saltmarsh and inter-tidal areas for the whole estuary. There may therefore be some residual uncertainty regarding environmental impacts.

The Society notes that in such circumstances, the guidance published at the time that the Special Area of Conservation was established states the following:

“This [the precautionary principle] can be applied to all forms of environmental risk. It suggests that where there are real threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used be as a reason for postponing measures to prevent such damage that are likely to be cost effective. It does not however imply that the suggested cause of such damage must be eradicated unless proved to be harmless and it cannot be used as a licence to invent hypothetical consequences. Moreover, it is important, when considering the information available, to take account of the associated balance of likely costs and benefits. When the risks of serious or irreversible environmental damage are high, and the cost penalties are low, the precautionary principle justifies a decisive response. In other circumstances, where a lesser risk is associated with a precautionary response that is likely to be very expensive, it could well be better to promote further scientific research than to embark upon premature action.”

The Harbour Commissioners exercise the statutory duty to have regard for the environment, and therefore in the event that the ferry operation commences, then we would anticipate that the guidance cited above would lead to some further continuous monitoring programme. The Society believes that this can be achieved by amending the existing monitoring programme.


The Society considers that it would be helpful if the Regulators would indicate a timetable for their decision making. It would also be helpful if Wightlink could indicate their operational plans in the event that such a timetable becomes extended.