District Council welcomes toll increase decision

Purbeck District Council has welcomed news that the Secretary of State for Transport has refused an application for toll increases for the Sandbanks to Studland Ferry.

Following objections to the increases by local residents, businesses and councils, the application by the Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company was referred to the Secretary of State who decided that a local Public Inquiry should be held.

Six local councils* worked together to object to the proposed increases, and a barrister presented their case to an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State at the public inquiry in September 2018.

The Inspector has now reported to The Secretary of State and, on 12 December 2018, confirmation was received that the application had been refused.

The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector’s conclusions that, although a replacement ferry will be necessary at some stage, there was no confirmation that a toll rise would result in this being achieved.

The Secretary of State also agreed there is no assurance that the ferry replacement reserve would be safeguarded and reach the level required to enable a replacement vessel. He said the fact the ferry replacement fund was not ring fenced and did not provide for an assured separate fund was “a significant area of concern.”

The Bournemouth Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company must wait at least another 12 months before it can make another application.

Councillor Gary Suttle, Leader of Purbeck District Council said:  “We welcome the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse the application.

“We had grave concerns that the proposed increases would only benefit the ferry company, whilst leaving residents who rely on the ferry disadvantaged.

“The increases would also have a detrimental effect on our local economy and the district’s already-congested roads, so the company needs to radically alter its approach to its ferry replacement fund before it makes another application.”

* The six councils were Purbeck District Council; Swanage Town Council; Corfe Castle Parish Council; Studland Parish Council; Wareham St Martin Parish Council; and Worth Matravers Parish Council.