Posted on 12 Nov 2008
The sea trials of the new ferries are proceeding according to plan, as reported in our October Update.
However, a letter from the Marine and Fisheries Agency to Mr. Desmond Swayne MP has introduced a confusion into the process by stating, â€œThe key is to determine who is responsible for the ferry operations and to establish whether this is in fact a regulatory gap.â€
The Society considers that there is not a regulatory gap and that there is a clear responsibility placed on the Lymington Harbour Commissioners in relation to environmental protection. Accordingly, the Society has written to the Chairman of the Harbour Commissioners and, in an attempt to clarify the matter, has copied the letter to MFA and to Mr. Swayne. The full text of our letter is quoted below.
The Society is confident that the Commissioners are fully aware of their responsibilities, but seek confirmation that the Commissioners will have received appropriate advice about the changes to the environment that may result from the operation of the new ferries.
The Societyâ€™s letter, dated 11th November
Dear Mr Griffiths
W Class Wightlink Ferries: Assessment of Potential Environmental Impact
We have read, with some concern, the letter from Nigel Gooding, Chief Executive, MFA to Desmond Swayne which states that the scope of the MFAâ€™s responsibility is restricted to the environmental impact of the deposition, below Mean High Water Mark, of the material from the berth improvement works. The letter continues: – â€œThe key is to determine who is responsible for the ferry operations and to establish whether this is in fact a regulatory gapâ€
The Solent Protection Society considers that there is not a regulatory gap and there is a clear responsibility placed on the Lymington Harbour Commissioners in relation to environmental protection. This is set out in paragraph 1.2.7. of the Port Marine Safety Code:
â€œHarbour authorities have a general duty to exercise their functions with regard to nature conservation and other related environmental considerations.
They also have an obligation, where a Special Protection Area for Birds or a Special Area of Conservation has been designated under the Wild Birds or Habitats Directives, â€œto have regard to the requirements of the Habitats Directive so far as they may be affected by the exercise of those functions.â€
This Code is supported by Section 48A of the Harbours Act 1964 and Regulation 3 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No 2716).
We are aware that the trials currently being conducted are aimed at creating a safe operating profile for the new ferries, and we have recently been briefed regarding the progress of those trials. It is understood that a number of practical issues are being addressed, and we await with interest the publication of the final recommendations regarding safe operation of the ferries. We consider that the recent clarification by the MFA underlines the regulatory role of LHC with regard to the environment and the operation of the ferries.
It is our understanding that the provisions of the Solent European Marine Site management scheme explicitly place a duty on all the participating regulators to use their powers to implement the Habitats Regulations. This clearly includes the Lymington Harbour Commissioners in relation to the Lymington River as the Relevant Authority.
At present Natural England are preparing advice to enable regulators to carry out appropriate assessments, and we understand that this has been extended, by agreement, to include the operation of the ferries and should therefore provide the basis for any regulatory action that LHC deem necessary. We would be grateful if you could confirm that you will have sufficient information, especially with regard to hydrodynamic conditions, to allow you to reach conclusions concerning the potential environmental impact arising from the operation of the ferries and take appropriate regulatory action.
We know that in view of the recent clarification by the MFA our members will appreciate your advice on this point. I am copying this letter to Desmond Swayne MP and Nigel Gooding for information, and a copy of the text will be available to our Members on our website.
Jeremy Clark Chairman
Report submitted by Jeremy Clark SPS Chairman