Public Meeting on new ferries

The Society hosted a public meeting last night, Nov 1st 2007, at the Community Centre, to enable public debate about Wightlink’s proposed new ferries. All interested parties were invited to attend, with assurances from Society chairman Clive Sutton that they would have a fair opportunity to state their case.

We expected a good turn out, and were pleased to be able to use the new Hall at the community Centre, which has accommodation for 200. However, we were rather overwhelmed by the numbers, as well over 300 people attended the meeting. At least a half of the audience were standing, and the sound system struggled to manage. Evidence that the topic is an important one to the town, and that the Society’s role is very much appreciated.

The Meeting

The meeting opened with a welcome and introduction from Clive.

This was followed by a presentation of the Main issues by Society Press Spokesman Donald Mackenzie, in which he presented the history of events leading up to the meeting.

Andrew Willson, Managing Director of Wightlink, then presented the reasoning behind the need for, and choice of, the new R Class ferries.

Peter Griffiths, the Chairman of the Harbour Commission, discussed the makeup and responsibilities of the Harbour Commission, and their involvement to date with this issue. He also took the opportunity to aprise the Lymington community of the threat to the salt marshes, and to appeal for help with this serious situation.

Geoff Holmes, the Commodore of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, then spoke, giving the Club’s position, and relating how it has become increasingly concerned over the potential impact of the new larger ferries.

There followed presentations from personal speakers. These were concerned users of the river, with personal expertise and experience.

Chris Baldwick Boats, Moorings, etc
Roger Wilson Junior Sailing
Michael Derrick Displacement
Dr Ken Hay Windage, Horsepower and Damage to Riverbanks
Derf Paton Environment
Mike Beggs Traffic, Transport and Freight
Dr Tom McEwen General Concerns
Mark Malanaphy General Concerns

Dr Mackenzie, Andrew Willson, Peter Griffiths and Geoff Holmes were then invited onto the stage, and the audience put questions to them. The final hour or so of the meeting consisted of questions from the audience. It was evident that the ferry service is much valued, and that the skill and good nature of the ferry crews is much appreciated, but the community is nevertheless very concerned about the impact of the new ferries, and is unhappy about the procedures to date. Several times the question was asked “How can it have come to this point?”

Desmond Swayne MP expressed the thoughts of many present when he asked why Natural England had declined their invitation to attend. Many feel that they are the Government body with authority to take the necessary steps to protect the delicate marine environment.

The meeting closed at just after 10:00 pm. The chairman thanked all of the participants, and expressed his appreciation to all attending, particularly as over 150 people had been standing throughout. The meeting had a spot on the BBC local news at 10:30.

The meeting was recorded, and we will be posting a transcript on this website when it is available. There was an enormous amount of useful detail in the presentations and Q and A session.

For a Transcript of the Meeting Click Here

This transcript is a close to verbatim as we can manage. During the question and answer period, the secretary made notes and these can be seen Here. These included questions asked after the transcript tape ran out, so they are NOT verbatim.

LATEST: Solent Protection Society Drops Support for New Ferries – Watchdog’s ferry U-turn

80 members attended the Solent Protection Society’s AGM on Monday. At the end of the meeting the Society resolved to register its objection… pending the completion of the relevant competent assessments, prior to them entering into service. Society Spokesman Susan Preston Davis told the A&T : ” In the light of additional information recently made public by Wightlink and in the Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on Nov 27th, the society has decided to oppose the ferries pending the analysis of the assessments commissioned by the Lymington Harbour Commissioners.” Society Chairman Shelagh de Carteret Evans added “Whilst appreciating the need for new ferries, we are concerned at the potential impact of the proposed new ferries, and have contacted Wightlink and the Lymington Harbour Commissioners to register our objection. We will be carefully monitoring the outcome of the relevant assessments.”

Friday 2nd Nov: Wightlink orders third new ferry for Yarmouth route.

Isle of Wight ferry company Wightlink has confirmed that it has placed an order for a third new ferry for its Lymington to Yarmouth route, despite a public outcry about the size of the new ships. The news comes the day after a public meeting in Lymington which was called because of the high level of anger in the town at the introduction of the new ferries, currently being built in Croatia, which displace almost twice as much water as the existing vessels. Campaigners claim that the new 1,496-ton ships will damage the environment of the Lymington River with its reed beds and salt marshes and will be a hazard to other vessels. Some sailing activities from the Royal Lymington Yacht Club are also said to be under threat.

Southampton Echo: Friday 2nd Nov: FERRY operator Wightlink has pledged to establish new guidelines for the two larger boats it controversially plans to introduce to Lymington River next year. Speaking at a packed public meeting last night, chief executive Andrew Willson said that he will use a new risk assessment – ordered by the Lymington Harbour Commissioners – to establish rules for his ferries. He made the promise as the two sides in the fiery debate over the larger ferries met for the first time at a meeting attended by more than 250 people. Wightlink made assurances about the ferries’ necessity and low impact but other users of Lymington River made calls for further assessments. Fears of more water displacement and damage to the salt marshes were top of opponents’ worries. Mr Willson said: “The way forward is for the harbour commissioners to undertake a further risk assessment. We will use the results and conduct trials to determine appropriate guidelines for the ferries.” advertisement From next summer, Wightlink plans to replace two ferries on its Lymington to Yarmouth service. The new £10m vessels, each weighing 1,495 tons compared to the current 850 tons, will displace almost twice as much water.

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