Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009

Mussel farmers win marina appeal

Aerial photograph of the proposed site
An aerial photograph of the site of the proposed development

Mussel fishermen have won a high court appeal against controversial plans for a 400-berth 17m marina on Anglesey.

The mussel farmers had claimed the proposed development at Gallows Point, Beaumaris, could reduce the crop by up to 40%.

Land owners Anglesey Council and the Crown Estate had appealed against an earlier court ruling arguing that the mussel beds and marina could co-exist.

The council said it was "disappointed" and would review the decision.

The case focused on the legality of a 1962 Menai Strait oyster and mussel fishery order in relation to the construction of a marina over seven hectares of shore land.

We now have confirmation from the highest legal authorities in the land that our businesses are safe
Andrew Wilson, mussel farmer

The mussel farmers said the dispute began in 1999 when Anglesey Council granted permission for a local developer to build a marina on land owned by the council and Crown Estate.

Mussel beds, which have been cultivated for more than 40 years, would be affected, the mussel farmers said.

As the beds are protected by fisheries legislation in 2007 the council and the Crown Estate launched a legal challenge, arguing that it should not prevent the marina being built.

The case was first heard in the High Court in March last year.

Original verdict

The judge ruled that the marina should not be built.

The council and the Crown Estate then took the issue to the Court of Appeal in November 2008.

Three appeal court judges have now endorsed the original verdict.

Mussel farmer Andrew Wilson said the ruling had prevented him going out of business.

"We now have confirmation from the highest legal authorities in the land that our businesses are safe," he said.

"Now this is over I'm looking forward to getting back to farming mussels in the Menai Strait rather than fighting for our livelihoods in the courts."

Shellfish Association

Another mussel farmer, Trevor Jones, said he was "delighted" by the result, but concerned another appeal might be in the pipeline.

"This could mean more battles in the courts and the legal costs for this case already run to hundreds of thousands of pounds," he said.

According to the Shellfish Association of Great Britain the Anglesey case has been watched carefully by shellfish farmers throughout the UK.

The association said there are 29 shellfish farms, producing 22m of shellfish every year, which rely on the same fisheries legislation that protects the Menai Strait.

"Shellfish farmers around the country have been holding their breath waiting for this verdict," said Dr Peter Hunt, the Shellfish Association director.

"It would have been a catastrophe for the industry if this had gone against us," he said.

'Disappointing'

Dr Hunt said he hoped the government would now use the proposed Marine Bill, to help avoid similar problems elsewhere.

A spokeswoman for Anglesey Council said the the decision was "disappointing".

"We will now be reviewing the court's decision with representatives for the Crown Estate before deciding on any further action."

She said that the legal costs were shared between the council and the Crown Estate.

"The cost to the council to date has been some 160,000," she added.

The development company behind the planned marina have been asked for a comment.



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