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Wight Light at Lymington

Wightlink provides the main link between the Isle of Wight and the mainland. We endeavour to provide Island residents and visitors with an easy and frequent service. Every year we carry over 4.8 million passengers and 65% of the Island’s freight to and from the IOW. 1.2 million of our passengers travel on our route between Lymington and Yarmouth. 

Lymington/Yarmouth update by Russell Kew, Chief Executive

As Chief Executive of Wightlink, I feel strongly that that my work has a clearly defined public service value. Having spent over 30 years in the Logistics sector, the last 10 years of which included Ferries and providing life line services to Island communities, I was really pleased to become Chief Executive of Wightlink in late 2009. 

We operate in a busy stretch of water always in sight of land and except in very poor visibility, there’s always something interesting or attractive or both to look at.  Sailing to France and the Channel Islands is fine but short sea links like our Solent ones connect UK communities in important ways as well as, in our case, delivering holiday makers and vital freight to what I think is England’s loveliest Island. 

On the Lymington/Yarmouth route, travellers can also enjoy the magic of the New Forest as part of their holiday. Despite the extended hot summer spell in 2010 and plenty of happy holiday makers using us to get to the Isle of Wight, Wightlink has had to weather some stormy business waters over recent years, particularly in Lymington. 

Our actions as “competent authority” for the small area surrounding our Lymington berth (a hang-over from ‘Sealink’, nationalised days) were judicially reviewed in the High Court in February 2010.  The judge found that we had introduced the Wight Class ferries without properly undertaking an Appropriate Assessment of any adverse effect that the ferries may have on Sites protected by the European Union Habitats Directive.  We had taken detailed advice from experts but this was not judged to be sufficient.

No company, and no CEO, relishes any of their procedures being described as “unlawful” and we have devoted a good deal of time in 2010 to setting matters right.  In October, after taking into account advice from Natural England and legal and habitat experts, and without taking commercial considerations into account, our board reached a provisional Appropriate Assessment that the operation of the Wight Class ferries, berth works in Lymington and habitat creation works close to the ferries’ route will not have an adverse effect on the European Sites.

Our applications for planning permissions and relevant licences for the works we want to undertake are currently with the four separate regulatory authorities who must conduct their own Appropriate Assessments.  Only if they grant the necessary consents will Wightlink be able to carry out its own formal Appropriate Assessment and decide whether it can start the works it has proposed.  

It is with regret that we still continue to be subject to sustained attack from a Lymington-based group which opposes the Wight Class ferries.  Members and supporters of the group insist that they want the ferry route to continue and the interests of West Wight to be served but on their own terms.  Since they got together around three years ago, they have repeatedly said that the Wight Class ferries are unsafe.

The latest independent “Review of Wight Class Ferry Operations and Marine Safety” for the Lymington Harbour Commissioners by BMT Isis concluded that “…the low level of marine risk on the Lymington River had not been compromised by the introduction of the Wight Class ferries”.  In fact the “overall impression was of a river fraternity that has settled down with both yachtsmen and ferries successfully coexisting and using the river sensibly and safely”. 

The ferries’ opponents also say that other operators would be quick to take on the route if Wightlink stopped or were pushed aside, serving it with smaller ferries with greater passenger capacity than the 360 per trip provided by the Wight Class ferries.  I doubt it.  I believe any sensible ferry company’s approach would be similar to our own as we strive to deliver a commercially funded public service in an area of natural beauty and to provide proper habitat protection. 

The Wight Class ferries were designed specifically for the route after a great deal of thought. Their propulsion systems provide the safe manoeuvrability necessary within a confined area. Their size is a function of the latest maritime safety rules which require a heavier displacement for ferries of an equivalent size to the thirty year old ferries they replaced.  Their operational displacement is 180 tonnes greater than this thus allowing us to carry cars and freight vehicles alongside each other on the same trip and reduce the number of voyages.

The ferries’ passenger capacity matches the way people have tended to move themselves about over the past decade.  Cars are bigger, more people have them and less people choose to travel without them.  There is little point in any operator investing, as we have done, £30 million in new ferries, to provide craft designed for the habits and vehicles of the 1970s.

It has been alleged by the ferries’ opponents that the new ferries have already led to increased freight traffic taking the Lymington to Yarmouth route to the detriment of New Forest residents.  In fact, freight for the Isle of Wight using the Lymington route hasn’t increased.  Over 85% of the Island’s freight uses the other ferry routes and, given the comparatively rural environments of both Lymington and Yarmouth, I anticipate this will continue.

It is important for any service provider to have the support of the majority of its users.  Yours would help us ensure the maintenance of a modern, effective ferry link between West Wight and the mainland.

You can have your say by writing to:

Mr Stephen Clothier
Area Planning Officer
New Forest District Council
Appletree Court
Beaulieu Road

and Mr Rob Ainslie
Head of Development Control
New Forest National Park Authority
South Efford House
Milford Road

A happy new year and let’s hope for resolution in 2011 of the problems facing Wightlink’s provision of its service in the western Solent.

W Class ferries are safe confirms independent report

The latest independent “Review of Wight Class Ferry Operations and Marine Safety” by BMT Isis is available for download from the Lymington Harbour website at The research for it was undertaken at various dates including during the 2010 high season for both recreational sailing and Lymington to Yarmouth ferry passages.

Wightlink is pleased to note that the review says that the “overall impression was of a river fraternity that has settled down with both yachtsmen and ferries successfully coexisting and using the river sensibly and safely.”  While the review made a number of useful recommendations for further improvement, it concluded that “…the low level of marine risk on the Lymington River had not been compromised by the introduction of the Wight Class ferries.”

Wightlink very much values the regular advice and guidance it receives from the Lymington Harbour Commissioners and other harbour users.  There is no room for complacency in the maintenance and improvement of marine safety.  However, this independent review clearly shows that Lymington River Association allegations about Wight Class ferry safety issues and problems are without foundation.


Wightlink applies for planning and licensing consents

Wightlink today (5th November) announced that it is applying for the planning permissions and licences it needs to improve its Lymington berth facilities for the 1.3 million passengers each year who use the route served by its “W” class ferries between Lymington and Yarmouth.  Wightlink wants to ease the issue of foot passengers getting on and off the ferry caused by having to use a temporary linkspan at Lymington and to protect customers from the weather and improve the ferries’ timekeeping. 

The Company is also applying for the planning permission and licences it needs to carry out habitat creation and recharge works to the east of the Lymington ferry route.  Wightlink proposes using around 2,000 cubic metres of the 30,000 cubic metres of sediment dredged annually from the harbour to improve and maintain the leisure boat industry’s provisions.  The sediment will be placed on an agreed site at Boiler Marsh and is intended to restore habitat in excess of that which might be eroded by the action of the ferries over the next thirty years according to Natural England’s (NE’s) advisors. The works will also protect existing saltmarsh behind the recharge area. It is anticipated that the sediment will need to be recharged to the area once a year for at least three years.

Wightlink is the statutory harbour authority for Lymington Pier and consequently is a competent authority under the European Union Habitats Directive and the Habitats Regulations. The Company is therefore required by law as competent authority to undertake an Appropriate Assessment (AA) of the effect of the operation of the “W” class ferries and its planning proposals on the Solent and Southampton Water Special Protection Area and the Solent and Southampton Special Area of Conservation (the European Sites). In doing so, Wightlink must take account of advice from NE which, in UK law, is the appropriate statutory “nature conservation body” whose views must be considered by competent authorities.

In accordance with its methodology published in the Spring, Wightlink’s board met to carry out a provisional AA on 27th October and, without taking commercial considerations into account, reached its provisional decision that the Project (operation of the “W” class ferries and its proposed works) will not cause an adverse effect on the European Sites.

Wightlink wants to start berth and habitat works by next spring.  However it will only be in a position to do so once all the relevant regulatory authorities have undertaken their own AAs of the effects of the Project and granted the necessary consents and after Wightlink (taking into account the advice of NE and the AAs of the other competent authorities) has carried out its formal AA of the Project.

Report for Board Meeting Download (PDF - 6MB)

Board Minutes Download (PDF)

Notice of Provisional AA  Download (PDF)

Flood Risk Assessment for Application Download (PDF - 4MB)

Non Technical Summary for Application Download (PDF)

Socio Economics Report Download (PDF)

Wightlink Planning Statement Application Download (PDF - 3MB)

Design and Access Statement Download (PDF - 5MB)

Technical Report Download (PDF - 8MB)

Technical Report - Annex A
Technical Report - Annex B (PDF - 11MB)
Technical Report - Annex C (PDF - 7MB)
Technical Report - Annex D 

Environmental Statement Cover and Content Download (PDF)

ES - Chapter 1
ES - Chapter 2 (PDF - 6MB)
ES - Chapter 3
ES - Chapter 4
ES - Chapter 5
ES - Chapter 6
ES - Chapter 7
ES - Annex A
ES - Annex B (PDF - 11MB)
ES - Annex C (PDF - 7MB)
ES - Annex D

Application Plans Pack Download (PDF - 4MB)

Info leaflet

FDC Recharge Works

FDC Shore Works

NFDC NEW Planning Application Shore Works 051110

NFNPA NEW Planning Application Recharge Works 051110

Shore Works 15.10.10

Wightlink Recharge and Habitat Creation Marine Works Additional Information-Sheet

Recharge Works FEPA



The Introduction Of The New "W" Class Ferries 
  1. The introduction of Wightlink’s three new ferries on the Lymington/Yarmouth route has been contentious. However, over their frst year’s operation, the ferries’ operational and safety record has been excellent and we believe they represent a signifcant enhancement to the service we offer our passengers.
  2. Their route runs close to and between two European nature conservation sites (see the map below).
  3. A judgement in the High Court in February 2010 confrmed that Wightlink is the competent authority which must decide whether or not the ferries pose a threat to the integrity of the habitat in the conservation sites. However, the Court held that the original assessment made by Wightlink regarding the effects of the operation of the new ferries on the conservation sites prior to the ferries’ introduction was not suffcient to satisfy the EU Habitats Directive and UK law.
  4. Wightlink will now start the assessment process again taking account of the possible effects on the conservation sites of:
      a. the operation of the new ferries
      b. proposed improvements to the Lymington berthworks for the new ferries
      c. proposed habitat protection and regeneration works which Wightlink intends to undertake in connection with the operation of the new ferries. 
  5. Please download the briefing note below which outlines the process of what now needs to be done by Wightlink, including applications for planning and other consents from a number of local and national authorities. Let us have your views by email supplied by 30 July.
    Thank you for your time in reading this.
    The wightlink management Team (June 2010)


 Download (PDF - 3mb)

Lymington River Map

Lymington Berth Works Map


Scoping Report 

1672 013.jpgWightlink has today submitted a Scoping Report to all relevant stakeholders as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Wightlink’s proposals for the ferry service running from Lymington to Yarmouth. Wightlink has undertaken to complete a voluntary EIA of the  operation of the ferry service on the Lymington to Yarmouth route, which includes the implementation and completion of shore works at the ferry terminal and the mitigation works on the salt marshes to the east of Lymington River, together forming the Project for the purposes of the assessment. The Scoping Report will inform the content of the Environmental Statement (ES) for the Project which will accompany the applications for the relevant consents required to complete the Project. )For more information on the EIA process please see note to editors below) 

The Scoping Report has been submitted to all relevant stakeholders for the Project for comment, who include:

  • New Forest District Council and National Park Authority who will determine the applications for planning permission for the Project and both of whom are competent authorities under the Habitats Directive and Regulations in relation to the grant of planning permission; 
  • Marine Management Organisation who will determine the applications for the marine licences needed for the Project and is a competent authority under the Habitats Directive and Regulations in relation to the grant of marine licences;
  • Environment Agency who will act as consultee to the local planning authorities and will be responsible for determining an application for flood defence consent for the shore works;
  • Natural England who will act as consultee to the competent authorities in relation to the appropriate assessment required under the Habitats Directive and Regulations;
  • Other Stakeholders including Lymington Harbour Commissioners and the Lymington River Association.

Full details of the parties who have been consulted can be found in chapter one of the Scoping Report.

Under the relevant legislation, the local planning authorities are required to provide their opinion on the scope of the ES having considered the Scoping Report and consultation responses to it. Their scoping opinion has to be issued by 29 July 2010.
A copy of the Scoping report is available here

Any person wishing to comment on the proposed scope of the EIA should write to the local planning authorities and any comments should be received in advance of the date specified above. Comments can also be submitted to Wightlink at the following address Wightlink c/o Alistair Billington, Environmental Resources Management, 2nd Floor Exchequer Court, 33 St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8AA. or

We would be grateful if any comments submitted to the local planning authorities could also be copied to Wightlink at Guwharf Road, Portsmouth, PO1 2LA. 

Note to Editors:

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process by which the environmental effects of projects are identified before the consents necessary for the relevant project are granted.  

The statutory bodies determining applications for those consents are required to take account of the information provided as a result of the EIA process in determining those applications.  That information includes the environmental statement (ES) Wightlink will submit with its applications for the consents it needs for the Project and the responses to consultation on the ES.  EIA ensures that decisions are made in the knowledge of the attendant environmental effects and with full engagement of statutory bodies, local and national groups and members of the public.

EIA has a number of stages. Scoping is the process of determining the content and extent of matters to be covered in the EIA generally and to be reported in the ES.  Scoping seeks to ensure that the information provided in an ES addresses the key effects of the Project.

The ES is the most visible part of the EIA process. It will draw together the findings of Wightlink’s technical studies undertaken to investigate the potential environmental effects of the Project. It is Wightlink’s responsibility to prepare the ES and present the information in a comprehensive, clear and objective manner for review by the relevant authorities determining consents required for the project, statutory consultees and members of the public.  


Wightlink’s observations regarding recent questions asked and discussions held in parliament.

This week there have been both an Adjournment Debate and written replies to a number of questions lodged by Desmond Swayne MP regarding Wightlink’s operations in the Lymington River. 

In the Adjournment Debate the Minister confirmed that Wightlink is the relevant competent authority responsible for assessing the impact of the new vessels. Wightlink is undertaking its duties in this respect and has asked stakeholders for their comments regarding its proposed assessment process.

In the Debate, Mr Swayne said that, left to nature, the salt marshes would be growing and extending were it not for the propulsion units on the ferries. There is no evidence that this is true. It is widely accepted that salt marshes all over the Solent are diminishing but, as yet, no study has provided conclusive evidence regarding the cause of the loss. As the Minister said “we need to have a sense of perspective and not blame everything on what has happened recently.” Wightlink notes that natural erosion has played and continues to play its part and leisure craft activity is considerable throughout the Solent often requiring significant dredging. 30,000 tonnes of mud are dredged from Lymington Harbour alone every year to accommodate the leisure craft industry.

The Minister went onto say “there is no evidence to suggest that any impacts will be different to those already predicted”. Wightlink’s proposed habitat regeneration and protection plans are designed to deal with these. He concluded by saying there is no clear scientific basis on which to support a decision to stop or suspend the ferry operation at the moment. His written answers confirmed the remarks he made in the debate and added “that any impacts arising from the operation of these ferries up to the spring of 2011, when works needed to mitigate the impact of the ferries are planned to start, would be insignificant and not likely to result in any measurable harm or damage”.  Wightlink notes that ongoing surveys undertaken both by Wightlink’s appointed advisors and by the Lymington Harbour Commission continue to fail to find evidence of ferry-induced erosion.

Wightlink also notes that Mr Swayne professes not to be anti-ferry and we assume his views take account of the value of the vital link between Lymington and Yarmouth and the significant economic and employment benefits that it provides for his constituents and thousands of others. For the avoidance of doubt we hope it is useful to remind interested parties that Wightlink is not the only competent authority that has to carry out Appropriate Assessments relating to the project. A number of consents and licences are required from The New Forest District Council, The National Parks Authority, The Marine Management Organisation and the Environment Agency all of whom will carry out independent assessments. Only when they are satisfied no adverse impact will occur from the operation of the ferries, will they issue the required consents. Wightlink will only finalise its own Appropriate Assessment when all other Competent Authorities have confirmed that there will be no adverse impact.

Wightlink fully understands the frustration felt by all of our customers who currently endure less than ideal embarkation facilities in Lymington, and those other river users who are inconvenienced by the additional time taken to moor the ferries.  We would like to assure you we are doing everything possible to resolve the situation as quickly as we can and we would like to apologise to all affected by the delays in completing our works.

Issued 18 June 2010


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