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Lymington River: Repairs and Maintenance

Volume 472: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the timetable is within which the Marine and Fisheries Agency plans to determine the application by Wightlink for shore works on the Lymington river; and if he will make a statement; (190276)

(2) whether the Marine and Fisheries Agency plans to consult when making an appropriate assessment on shore works to accommodate larger ferries in the Lymington river under the provisions of the Habitat Directive.

In July 2007, Wightlink applied to the Marine and Fisheries Agency (MFA) for a licence to undertake modification works to piles, fendering and linkspan bridges comprising parts of the ferry terminals at both Lymington and Yarmouth. The MFA's controls under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA) and the Coast Protection Act 1994 (CPA) only apply to the works proposed seawards of Mean High Water Spring Tide line (i.e. only including the foreshore).

Permissions related to the works have also been sought from other regulators, including the respective local authorities, the Environment Agency, and the Lymington and Yarmouth harbour authorities.

In progressing the FEPA and CPA applications, the MFA is working with these regulators to address the need for more environmental data. The MFA have taken the view that the intended works should be subject to ‘Appropriate Assessment' in compliance with the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994, which should also have regard to the potential effects on nature conservation that may arise from the operation of the proposed larger ferry vessels.

A meeting was convened in January with the other regulators and Natural England to clarify what statutory responsibilities applied to the various elements of the project and how their possible effects were to be assessed. A subsequent meeting was held with Wightlink, primarily to discuss what additional data regulators and their advisers considered necessary.

Wightlink also met separately with Natural England to clarify what further information would be needed to support an appropriate assessment, and they have commissioned marine consultants to prepare a report that will be submitted to each of the regulators. Lymington Harbour Commissioners have also set in train arrangements to monitor the hydrodynamic effects of the existing ferries as basis for considering any constraints that may be necessary, for health and safety reasons, to the operation of the new vessels.

In determining their respective applications, regulators will individually and jointly, make an assessment of the additional data in so far as it applies to their responsibilities. This will enable them to determine the extent of any adverse risk to protected conservation sites, whether any mitigation is required and, if so, how this can be ensured.

As the consultation process raised no concerns in respect of only those elements of the works proposed at Yarmouth, Wightlink made a further application to the MFA earlier this month in respect of those works. This application has been determined and a FEPA Licence and CPA consent were granted on 21 February.