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Campaigners seek fresh appeal in Lymington ferry battle
Members of the Lymington River Association (LRA) claim the W-class vessels are damaging the marshes and should be replaced with smaller craft.
But after losing the latest round of their legal battle against the new Wightlink ferries operating on the Lymington to Yarmouth route, the group is now asking for permission to make a further appeal.
In 2011 a planning inquiry ruled that Wightlinkcould continue to operate the 1,496-tonne vessels, despite environmental protest.
The LRA sought a judicial review of the decision but its original application was rejected by the High Court, which said the association had failed to mount its challenge within the six weeks allowed. Its appeal was also thrown out – at a hearing that lasted just 26 minutes two weeks ago.
Now LRA spokesman Stephen Akester has told the Daily Echo that they have formally asked the High Court if an appeal will be acceptable.
He said that just in order to appeal, the grounds on which they plan to do so have to be acceptable – in this case they are that the refusal was unlawful.
He said that the principal reason for the appeal was that the judge appeared to have made up his mind beforehand.
Mr Akester said it was hard to know whether their latest appeal would be successful as the group had been confident they would succeed at the previous hearing.
But he said, even if this fails, they would continue to pursue all angles, including legal avenues.
“The objective of the LRA is the conservation of the salt marshes of Lymington area and they are being lost – there are a number of causes and the ferry is one of them,” he said.
Mr Akester added that the group did not oppose the ferries, just their size.
The four-year legal battle has so far cost Wightlink more than £3.4m.
Wightlink has dumped 2,000 cubic metres of silt near the river entrance to offset any erosion from ferry movements.
But the LRA has dismissed the scheme, claiming the company is not allowed under European habitat laws to cause any damage to the area.
Wightlink’s chief executive, Russell Kew, has previously said: “Our W-class ships are operating reliably, with reduced environmental impact.
“The habitat creation works are going very well under the close supervision of a robust and independent environment management panel.”
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