The Society’s view on the listing of the Sea Water Baths

Sea water Baths

The Lymington Society has been aware for some time that English Heritage was considering a possible listing of the Lymington Sea Water Baths and that they had commissioned a detailed report on the historic significance of the baths.  We now very much welcome the outcome of their deliberations and their decision to list the baths as Grade Two Listed

The Lymington Society has been concerned for some time that the unique charm and historic settings of the Lymington Sea Water baths could be under threat from some of the more ambitious schemes that were being debated around the town.  Whilst appreciating that the maintenance of the baths and their safe operation had become increasingly problematic in this more safety conscious era, we were concerned that the rumoured redevelopment proposals could threaten the future of the baths as many have known and loved them for generations.

Speaking after the announcement by English Heritage Don Mackenzie Lymington Society Spokesman said:

We made enquires several months ago with English Heritage as to how the Society could take forward the listing of the baths.  We found that a request had already been made to English Heritage and that rather than reject this application they had produced an in-depth report on the history and significance of the baths.  We were pleased to add our support to the original request from a member of the public for listing to be granted.

 We felt that in view of English Heritage’s findings concerning the great historic importance of the baths that they would be more likely than not to agree to the listing.  Now that English Heritage has completed their assessment and has decided to list the baths we are very pleased and fully support their decision which may be the key to the baths long term retention and improvement.  

 Whilst understanding that this decision may be viewed by some as making necessary redevelopment of the baths more difficult, we sincerely hope that the listing of the baths will now in fact make it easier to obtain the vital funds that the bath need in order to guarantee their long term future. We hope that the authorities will understand that despite the listing, some sympathetic development of the baths and the area around them may well still be needed to give them a long term future.

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Chairman’s 2012 AGM Address

cropped-logo_small.jpgChairman’s 2012 AGM Address

50 years of the Society

Last year I reviewed the activities of the Society’s Committee under my chairmanship over the past 10 years or so. I have now been reminded by the Secretary, Dr Ivor Johnson, that this is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Society. I believe it was formally instituted on 16 April 1962. One of its founder members was Bill Hope Jones who was our president until his death a few years ago. He continued to actively support the Society until he died.

Missing Records—can you help?

I have looked up some of the records of the Society which cover the decade of the 90s. If anyone else knows where the previous records are going back into the60s 70s and 80s then please do let us know. I don’t say they had an easy time of it in the 90s. There was the major planning appeal in relation to Buckland rings in 1987 and the ongoing issue of the siting of the hospital all the way through the 90s.

My reason for joining

It was the possibility of being able to push forward the development of the Hospital that encouraged me to join the Society’s Committee and to become its Chairman and very soon after, probably not due to any great effort on my part, the hospital was built and is a very splendid facility for the Town, whether one likes its location or not.

All change with the new millennium

Apart from the Hospital, things in the minutes in the 90s were some what routine. I don’t know whether it was the fault of the new Committee but, as I set out in my last Chairman’s speech last year, everything then happened. The Chicken Factory Site issue became active and has had a mind of its own ever since. Mr Prescott decided to encourage development on Brownfield sites and incorporated back gardens into the term Brownfield. That started a battle which lasted several years until the planners came round to our way of thinking following a public meeting, and the Government eventually modified its directives. previous meetings with envy. Possibly two or three letters to be discussed. These days not a day goes by without emails circulating amongst the Committee dealing with all these issues. We take the details them as read and discuss the wider principles at our Committee meetings. It is principles upon which an Amenity Society needs to operate. Its mission and message need to be clear. It is not an organisation for individual one-off issues important as they are. It has to look at the overall picture and argue to its strengths. That involves getting a good relationship with the planners and the local councillors, which I hope we have now achieved. That does not mean that we all agree all the time. As has happened this year we had surprise decisions not only from the District Councillors over Wetherspoon’s but also from the Town Councillors over Redrow. That does not mean that we fallout but that we put over our point of view to ensure that at the end of the daythe issue has been fully debated and properly considered by those bodies, do not agree with the current plan, but understandable. It is also understandable that a single issue organisation such as “Lymington Last Shores” using a website to attract support, fights on to get a much lower density. The Committee however feel that it has adopted a reasonable and responsible approach which prevents the Town from the risk of the 300 unit development rising to 4 to 5 stories.

…and Wightlink…

On the issue of the ferries the Society has finally seen to a conclusion, in the recent public enquiry, its efforts toensure that the introduction of the ferries was carried out on the basis of all appropriate investigations being carried out by the authorities rather than the presentation of a fait-accompli by Wightlink.

…and Wetherspoons

On Wetherspoon’s we have been surprised and shocked at the Council’s decision to grant the application in the teeth of local opposition and have expended some of our funds in establishing whether there were grounds to challenge that decision. There were, but on a pragmatic basis when it was clear to us that the decision would be likely to be repeated if set-aside after a very risky and expensive judicial review, the right decision was not to go further. Jonathan Hutchinson would like me to say that if any members criticise that decision he would like to know whether they were one of the few members who responded to his request for their views in making that decision.

This is your opportunity to say whether the Committee is doing what you think is right. The Advertiser and Times suggested that we were raising a white flag over Wetherspoon’s. I have sought to justify our position in the local paper. If you have any views let us have them tonight.

The Committee have to act on your behalf. I sit on various committees and Ihave to say that this is one of the most active and well integrated committees that I am involved with and I am lucky to be Chairman of it. I hope you will continue to support it.

W Class ferries Press Release

Lymington Society Press Release 18.02.09

Natural England confirms that the W. class ferries will have significant adverse effect on Lymington River

Lymington Society argue that any environmental impact must be mitigated within the River

Lymington Society Fully Supports Continued Ferry Service to the IOW

The Lymington Society firmly supports continuation of a reliable, environmentally friendly and modern ferry service from Lymington to Yarmouth which we acknowledge brings tremendous benefit to both communities. However this must not be at the risk of damage to the EU protected Natura 2000 habitats which the whole community wishes to see protected.

Lymington Society Argued for Full Environmental Impact Assessment of New Ferries

Since the W. class ferries were first announced in 2007, the Lymington Society has been concerned to ensure that the Wightlink proposal to bring very much larger ferries to the Lymington River was subjected to detailed scrutiny by the authorities and was instrumental in persuading Natural England that this proposal required detailed environmental scrutiny. We would have preferred that a Full Environmental Impact Assessment had been carried out rather than the more limited Appropriate Assessment (AA) which only looks at environmental concerns.

The Society Has Been Actively Involved during the Appropriate Assessment Process.

However, during the AA process, we have been co-operating fully with Natural England and their marine consultants, HR Wallingford, to ensure that all aspects of the environmental impact have been fully considered, including making detailed submissions and attending briefing meetings as a stakeholder in the process.

HR Wallingford Concluded That W. Class Ferries Will Cause “Adverse Effect” to the EU Protected Habitats in the LymingtonRiver Contrary to European Habitats Directives

As has now been reported in the Lymington Times, the HR Wallingford report concluded that due to insufficient control by the authorities of their speed, the current C Class ferries have over many years caused major environmental damage and loss mudflats and salt marshes along the length of the Lymington River.

  • HR Wallingford confirmed that the majority of the damage that has occurred in the upper reaches of the river since the ferries arrived in the mid-19 70s is due to the operation of the ferry service and not as many has claimed due to tidal flow or increased wind and wave action.
  • Although the current ferries have been more tightly controlled since 2007, HR Wallingford predict that they will continue to cause some further erosion to the protected habitats in the river if they continue in service at the current speed.
  • HR Wallingford have concluded that the W. class ferries, despite going slower than the C Class used to, will cause the same amount of erosion to the protected habitats and the river generally as the C Class did when their speed was allowed to be in excess of the speed limit.
  • They are predicting that the wave action caused by the W Class ferries on the intertidal mudflats will cause adverse effect to 1.3 hectares of mud flat per decade.
  • In addition the scouring action of the much more powerful Voight Schneider engines will deepen the river by at least half a metre causing a widening of the river by 20%. This could cause the loss of 3.7 hectares of saltmarsh, mainly in the Lymington River in the next 30 years or so.
  • Direct action of the thrusters on the riverbank, when turning corners or when steering to avoid being blown off course by the wind, may have a direct effect on the riverbank and the intertidal areas.
  • There is a large amount of uncertainty concerning the effects of the thrusters on the riverbank and the intertidal areas and the effects may be significantly greater than currently calculated.

Natural England’s Advice to the Regulators

Following the publication of the HR Wallingford report, Natural England have concluded that Wightlink have failed to demonstrate that the new ferries will not cause an adverse effect on the protected habitats to which the Lymington river runs.

Natural England’s Position on Mitigation of the Effects of the W. Class Ferries

Operational Mitigation Not Sufficient to Reduce Adverse Effect to Acceptable Levels

It was originally thought that changes to the methods of operation of the new ferries (so-called operational mitigation), such as speed reductions, or restrictions on passing in the river, might be sufficient to reduce the damage caused by the new ferries to an acceptable level.

Following discussions with the Harbour Commissioners and Wightlink, Natural England have concluded that no operational mitigation will reduce the adverse effects of the W. Class to an acceptable level.

Mitigation of Adverse Effects by Habitat Re Creation

Natural England indicates in their advice that instead of operational mitigation, they are willing to consider allowing Wightlink to pay for re-creation of alternative habitats elsewhere in the Solent Maritime SAC (Special Area of Conservation).  This is regarded as an alternative mitigation of the effects of the new ferries rather than operational mitigation which was previously considered likely.

Currently no scheme of mitigation through habitat recreation has been designed or approved and this will take some time to be designed and costed and agreed with natural England. Natural England state that any habitat re-creation scheme offered by Wightlink as mitigation, must have a high degree of probability of being successful to allow it to be accepted as mitigation for the effects of the W. class ferries.

Consideration of Natural England’s Advice in Light of the H R Wallingford Report

With the release of the final HR Wallingford report on the likely environmental impact of the W. class ferries on the river and the issuing by Natural England of their advice to the Regulators, whose permission Wightlink require to operate the service, the Full Committee of the Lymington Society has discussed the impact that the ferries are likely to cause in the river and whether Wightlink should be allowed to commence commercial service using the W. class ferries

Consideration of Natural England’s Current Position

The effects of Natural England’s advice is that they appear to be accepting that the upper reaches of the Lymington river and the Inner Harbour will be subject to possibly major environmental damage with loss of salt-marshes, mudflats and general visual amenity and that Wightlink will be allowed to pay for this lost habitat to be recreated elsewhere in the Solent maritime SAC

Natural England’s Acceptance of Adverse Effect on the Lymington River Undermines Breakwater Scheme Recently Approved by Natural England

However another proposal concerning the Inner Harbour and upper reaches of the river, was recently also approved by Natural England. This involves the proposal by the Harbour Commissioners to build two large stone breakwaters to protect the remaining salt marshes still remaining in the Lymington River. It is thought by most observers that without this protection, much of the remaining salt marshes in Lymington River will be lost in the next 10 to 20 years – exposing the harbour to the full effects of increasing storms due to global warming.

It is likely that within the next 20 to 30 years, much of the remaining saltmarsh in the Solent will be lost due to what is called “costal squeeze” as rising sea levels overwhelm existing salt marshes which are unable to retreat inland due to harbour walls such as the sea wall around the Salterns.

Position of the Lymington Society in Light Natural England’s Advice

Sacrifice of Lymington River saltmarshes and environment not acceptable to allow Wightlink to bring larger ferries to the river

Whilst understanding that Natural England with its regional and national remit, may take the view that recreated habitat elsewhere in the Solent Maritime SAC may be acceptable as an alternative to habitat lost in the Lymington River, the Society does not feel that Lymington should be asked to effectively sacrifice its mudflats and salt marshes, which the new breakwaters are supposed to protect and their replacement by salt-marshes in another part of the Solent.

We therefore do not find it acceptable that Wightlink should be given permission to operate a service which it is now knownwill cause possibly major damage to the Lymington River and be allowed to offset this by creating salt marshes somewhere else in the area.

All Alternatives Should Be Fully Examined before Allowing Adverse Effect on the Lymington River.

Under European law and the operation of the Habitats Directive, compensatory mitigation such as habitat re-creation should not be considered until all alternatives have been examined and the minister at Defra has declared that the development in question must go ahead because of Overriding Public Interest. Compensatory habitat re-creation may then be considered as an absolute last resort.

Natural England has indicated that habitat recreation inside the designated protected area (in this case the Solent Maritime SAC) does not count as “compensatory mitigation” under EU law and they argue that they are allowed to consider such re-creation of habitat before considering alternatives. We understand that legal advice is being taken by various parties including the Lymington River Association on this interpretation of EU law

The Society Does Not Agree That All Alternatives Have yet Been Fully Considered

The Society understands that all three of the old ferries are still available and that (subject to their annual passenger certificate being renewed) they could continue in service for the foreseeable future. It has become public knowledge that at the time of the sale of Wightlink to the current owners, the report on the current ferries produced by naval architects Hart Fenton concluded that the ferries could be used for an additional period of at least another 10 years.

Statutory Duty of the Harbour Commissioners to Protect the Environmental Integrity of the Lymington River

It is our understanding that the Lymington Harbour Commissioners have a statutory duty to protect the environmental integrity of the area under their control and protection. If they allowed the W. Class ferries to commence operation, knowing in advance that environmental damage and adverse effect, would take place on the remaining saltmarshes and the natural beauty of the Lymington River, this may be considered by some to be incompatible with their obligations to protect theLymington River and Harbour.

In addition, due to the uncertainty described by HR Wallingford, the direct effects of the thrusters on the riverbed and the intertidal areas (which may well be much greater than currently estimated,) the level of the adverse effect which the river might be subject to, is completely unknown at this stage and may be much greater than feared.

We therefore call on the Harbour Commissioners to use the precautionary principle and put the protection of the Lymington River and the salt marshes, which their own breakwaters are being built to protect, first and to refuse Wightlink permission to allow these much larger ferries, which it is now known will cause possibly major environmental harm and loss of amenity to the town, to start a regular service in the Lymington River

Speaking after the Lymington Society committee meeting, Dr Donald Mackenzie Press Spokesman for the Lymington Society said:

“Because of the large increase in size of the W. Class ferries compared with the old ones and the equally large increase in engine power and windage, it was always likely that the new ferries would prove to be significantly more damaging to the EU designated Natura 2000 habitats and the Lymington River generally, than the current ferries.

This has now proved to be the case, and many hectares of habitats – which are supposed to be protected to the highest level under their EU Natura 2000 designations, are likely to be destroyed or degraded by the new ferries over the years ahead – especially in the upper reaches of the Lymington River and in the inner harbour.

It is very regrettable that for so long the current ferries have been allowed to routinely travel faster than the recognized speed limit and that they have been found to have caused so much damage – especially in the upper reaches of the river.

From the start, the position of the Lymington Society on the new ferries has been to press the authorities to fully and properly investigate all aspects of the environmental and safety impacts that these new ferries might cause.

The Society successfully lobbied Natural England and the regulators involved, to give this proposal the scrutiny which we felt it should have and we have been co-operating with Natural England and their consultants HR Wallingford through regular meetings and other communications, to ensure that all aspects of the possible environmental impacts were properly considered

It is now clear that the W. class ferry will definitely cause increased environmental damage to a large area of the river in the years ahead. It is also clear that there is very considerable uncertainty about how much damage may be caused and that the potential is for the damage to be significantly worse than has currently been estimated, if the effects of the thrusters are as great as some people fear they may be. If ever there was a case for the use of the “precautionary principle” when deciding environment issues, then this is such a case.

The area north of Pylewell, where HR Wallingford have implicated the ferries in causing most of the loss of habitat over the years, is supposed to be protected by the new breakwaters for which the Harbour Commissioners have only just received permission from Natural England

It is therefore doubly important that this vital natural resource for wildlife in the Lymington River, as well as for the amenity value of the scenery – which we all take the granted, is properly protected and not sacrificed for future generations, in order to allow Wightlink to increase the level of traffic – especially lorries and buses – which they carry to the island.

It would be perverse indeed if having been given permission by Natural England to build new breakwaters to protect the remaining River saltmarshes, the Harbour Commissioners consented to a new environmentally damaging ferry service which then put at risk those very same saltmarsh habitats.

We believe that there it is a viable alternative to bringing the W. class ferries into service, as the old ferries are still all available and could be pressed into service quickly once they have been through their annual recertification process.

 We therefore call on the Lymington Harbour Commissioners to put the interests of Lymington ahead of that Wightlink and to make it clear that these ferries are simply too large and too damaging to be allowed to start regular commercial service in the Lymington River.”

Dr Donald F. Mackenzie

Lymington Society Press Spokesman

The Marine Bill

The Forthcoming Marine Bill and Other Matters

Marion Jakes – Lymington Society Committee Member for the Waterside

In these times of climate change, sea level rise, disappearing saltmarshes and erosion, not to mention other man-made damage to the river, we could sometimes have reason to believe that there are just far too many agencies with overlapping responsibilities – NFDC, National Park, Harbour Commissioners, Natural England, DEFRA, the Environment Agency, to name a few – and none apparently with enough individual power to reach joined-up decisions and deal effectively with the issues. Some of this may change soon when the Marine and Coastal Access Bill becomes final legislation later this year. The Bill covers a wide set of objectives including a new marine planning and licensing system under the proposed Marine Management Organisation (MMO) which will coordinate all marine matters throughout the UK. New Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) will be established to protect habitats and species increasing the level of protection to 22% of UK waters from the current 2.2%, and there will be increased powers to modernise fisheries management and enforce regulation policies. Last, but definitely not least, is the provision for the completion of a Coastal Access route round the entire UK coast, including privately owned land. This topic has been covered in the national press and is a delicate balance between providing for the interests of walkers to enjoy a “coastal experience” at first hand, and those of landowners who may be keen to preserve the privacy of their land and its stability from the extra pressures of walkers leading to further coastal erosion. Consultation on the Coastal Access issue is currently underway with a stated possible exemption for parks and gardens. Locally the draft North Solent Shoreline Management Plan is being finalised for consultation in the coming weeks and provisions are being made for recommendations on coastal defence policy for both publicly and privately owned land. These include ‘no active intervention’ and ‘hold the line’ designations. Our area of the north Solent is particularly sensitive due to the large extent of saltmarshes, river habitat and wide extent of private land ownership. We will be commenting on the consultation document so do let us know of any strong views you have to counteract suggestions for ‘no active intervention’ , currently thought to be areas eastwards from Elmers Court to Sowley.

Reed Beds

lymsoc-3Reed Beds

The Environment Agency is modifying its strategy for the reed beds to the North of Bridge Road. Currently a Tidal Flap prevents salt water penetrating the area, but as tides get ever higher this is preventing the area from draining properly. The Tidal Flap will be replaced by an opening with a mechanism that only shuts at very high tides, to prevent flooding. This will change the ecology of the area as described in this letter and newsletter article. Click here

Letter to Lymington Harbour Commissioners

Mr P. Griffiths

Chairman

Lymington Harbour Commissioners

25 February 2009

Dear Mr Griffiths

It has been announced by Wightlink that Wightlink have decided at a Board Meeting yesterday to commence a commercial service with the new W Class ferries from midnight tonight. Wightlink have issued a statement this afternoon.

As you will know, following an exhaustive Appropriate Assessment process conducted under the Habitats Directive, Natural England  have issued advice to all the Regulators that the new W Class ferries will cause a significant and as yet un-quantified “adverse effect on the Natura 2000 designated sites that the ferry passes through in the Lymington River in the decades ahead” .

With their press release Wightlink have produced an opinion from their solicitors and leading counsel to the effect that Wightlink are a statutory harbour authority in respect of Lymington Pier and therefore have environmental duties under section 48A of the Harbours Act 1964.

Those duties should have regard to the conservation of the natural beauty of the countryside and natural features of special interest and to take into account any effect which the proposals may have on those features.

Similarly the opinion states Wightlink has statutory functions requiring it to have regard to the requirements of the Habitats Directive so far as those requirements may be affected by the Wightlink’s activities.

The clear effect in the case of the Lymington River is to the saltmarshes and the river channel itself.

No doubt other opinion may contradict Wightlink’s own opinion that it can effectively act as judge and jury as its own statutory harbour authority but regardless of that, the legal opinion that Wightlink has received has made it quite clear that under the above provisions Wightlink should carry out an environmental assessment of the effect of introducing the new ferries. An environmental assessment shall be equivalent in form and scope to the appropriate assessment process which is under way by Natural England.

There are clearly issues between the various marine surveyors and experts involved in that process and Natural England’s consultants at least, HR Wallingford, take the view that there is unacceptable impact resulting from the new ferries.

Wightlink have effectively pre-empted further discussion and argument which would lead to a resolution and conclusion of the appropriate assessment by concluding that their experts are correct and on that basis, subject to a final sea trial, are proposing to enter the ferries into service.

In view of the unresolved issues between the surveyors that would appear to be a premature conclusion. However Wightlink states in its press release that the advice shows that Wightlink has fully complied with its legal obligations. This would appear not to be the case on the face of the documentation produced by Wightlink.

The Lymington Society have never sought to be an expert in this issue but have sought to ensure that the interests of the Lymington and its environment are fully taken into account in the decision-making processes and are protected and accordingly the Society draws this position to your attention representing that you as a relevant authority should take steps to prevent Wightlink’s prejudgement of the regulatory position.

In the circumstances the Society urge all the regulators to ensure that they use the powers at their disposal to ensure that Wightlink are prevented from starting this commercial service prematurely which according to Natural Englands experts, will lead to a clear adverse affect on the Natura 2000 site by the anticipated 23,000 ferry sailings per year of the significantly larger ferries.

Yours sincerely

Clive Sutton Lymington Society Chairman.

Ferry River Trials

Lymington Harbour Commissioners
New Ferries River Trials Information Update to Stakeholders – No. 4
Wightlink have defied the will of all the regulators in deciding to introduce their new ferries before the necessary safety trials are complete and the environmental concerns have been resolved.
They have taken this action despite repeated requests from the LHC and their previous undertaking not to do so. They claim that they are justified because of the needs of the Isle of Wight, but the real problem that has lead to this situation is Wightlink’s determination to design and build ferries in advance of meaningful consultations with all the regulators. As a result, all subsequent consultations have taken place against the commercial necessity on the part of Wightlink to introduce ferries that had already been paid for.
We have once again requested Wightlink to desist from this action, and are contacting all the relevant Government Departments for support in preventing it. However, if Wightlink go ahead without completion and acceptance of the risk assessment we will be providing whatever harbour patrols are appropriate to help safe guard other river users. These actions will be taken by the Commissioners in order to minimise any threat to the safety of other river users but without condoning the introduction of the new ferries. It has been confirmed to us by Government that as presently constituted, the Commissioner’s do not have the power to prevent the new ferries sailing.
We expect the full BMT report to be available by 5 March and it will be circulated to stake holders for consultation as soon as possible.
In this fast developing situation, we will keep you all informed as they occur.
Peter Griffiths – Chairman LHC
24/2/2009.