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Following the High Court judgment in Akester [2010] EWHC 232 (Admin), applications for shore and recharge works for the Wightlink ferry service from Lymington to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight were submitted, the entire project comprising those works and the running of the ferries. The recharge works to take place on SPA habitats in close proximity to the ferry route would ensure that the works to recharge degrading saltmarsh and mudflat habitat (which would be lost to natural forces in any event over the medium term) would offset the impact from the ferries and protect the SPA habitat for many years longer than they would survive naturally.

Following negotiations over a flexible adaptive and monitoring mechanism to ensure the efficacy of the recharge works, Natural England and the local authorities withdrew their opposition to the project. A two week inquiry was held in October 2011 at which opposition was maintained by the Lymington River Association and others. Today the Inspector issued her decision letter granting planning permission and agreeing that the project taken as a whole (including the recharge works and the adaptive mechanism) would not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the SPA under the Habitats Regulations 2010 and the Habitats Directive, having carried out an appropriate assessment. The Inspector also accepted, in the planning context (though not in terms of the appropriate assessment) that the economic and social importance of the ferries to the Isle of Wight was considerable and a weighty consideration in favour of the grant of permission.

David Elvin QC and James Maurici represented Wightlink Limited.

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