Further to previous legal challenges by the Lymington River Association (LRA) against Wightlink’s use of W Class ferries on the Yarmouth-Lymington route, this in from Wightlink today. In their own words. Ed
The LRA and its lawyers remain determined to challenge the maintenance and development of Wightlink’s habitat protection work and its Lymington/ Yarmouth ferry service.
A full planning inquiry was held in Lymington Town Hall last November. The Planning Inspector approved Wightlink’s project which comprised the running of the W Class ferries, the carrying out of habitat recharge works at Boiler Marsh and new berth works in Lymington.
The berth works have now been successfully completed to the benefit of passengers and the ease of the ferry operation.
Being monitored by environment panel
The habitat recharge works have started well. They comprise a long term project undertaken, as agreed by the Planning Inspector, under the watchful eye of an environmental monitoring panel.
This panel ensures that the works are adapted as necessary to mitigate against any adverse effects of the W Class ferries on the European Sites that border the Lymington Estuary, as revealed by regular survey work that Wightlink must complete and report to the panel.
The panel has the responsibility to ensure that the habitat works are effective in addressing any effect the W Class ferries may have on the Lymington Estuary. The Panel’s next meeting will be in November. The minutes of that meeting will be published. The minutes of the Panels first meeting (6 June) were published on 3rd July and can be found online.
Appeal not made in time
The LRA’s lawyers failed to appeal the Planning Inspector’s November decision within the relevant six week period following it being made. A request was then made that the Secretary of State reconsider that decision made on his behalf by the Planning Inspector and revoke the planning permissions that the Inspector granted on the basis that they were incompatible with European law.
The Secretary of State decided not to reverse the Inspector’s decision and accepted her finding that Wightlink’s project was not in breach of European Law because it was correct, to consider Wightlink’s application under Article 6.3 rather than Article 6.4 of the Habitats Directive. Wightlink supports the reasoning behind that decision.
LRA claiming unlawful
Now the LRA is claiming that the consequences of the Planning Inspector’s decisions were unlawful and is seeking a judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision not to revoke the decision of his appointed planning inspector, notwithstanding the fact that it failed to act in time in respect of the original Inspector’s decision.
This is a matter of considerable frustration to Wightlink’s primary aim in their desire is to operate a ferry service that meets the needs of the public and the Isle of Wight whilst having due regard to their role as a competent authority.
Considerable frustration for Wightlink
The uncertainty caused by this on-going action is a matter of considerable frustration to the company given the extensive examination the proposals have already received and which were approved in their entirety by the Inspector.
The latest action brought by the LRA very largely repeats its previous arguments against the project, all of which were considered and dismissed by the Planning Inspector having considered all of the evidence presented to her including that of Natural England (the statutory nature conservation adviser). Notwithstanding this, the LRA, which its lawyer describes as “a concerned local group”, is continuing to pursue its complaints about the project.
The LRA is a company limited by guarantee. Despite its corporate status, it is seeking a Protective Costs Order, exempting it from all legal costs arising from its activities believing that these should be borne by the public purse, despite the fact that its position has already been extensively considered and rejected by an expert Planning Inspector. If it and its lawyers are not freed from any expense, they say the application for judicial review will not proceed.