Norfolk fishermen in Wash cockles court victory

Boat at King's Lynn
Image caption The dispute concerned vessels operating out of King's Lynn, where several shellfish companies are based

Fishermen have won a partial Supreme Court victory to allow them to gather shellfish in an area of The Wash, following a nine-year dispute.

The case arose when 13 vessels from King's Lynn allegedly trespassed into a private fishery to gather cockles off the Norfolk coast in 2007.

They argued the sandbanks in question had not become part of the fishery.

The Supreme Court ruled in their favour but dismissed their argument over another boundary in the area.

The judgement overturns previous rulings by the High Court and Court of Appeal that the silting-up of channels meant the sandbanks were now connected, at low tide, to a fishery leased by John Loose.

He claimed his rights had been infringed by the appellants, named in the judgement as Lynn Shellfish Ltd and Others.

The ruling said the estate's right to fish did not extend to the sandbanks, which attach to the foreshore, as and when they become attached.

Evidence seen by the courts included charts and maps, some dating back to 1588.

The courts also heard the public had exercised its right to gather shellfish at the sandbanks for centuries.

Lord Neuberger, sitting with four other law lords, said they dismissed the fishermen's appeal relating to the seaward, western boundary of the area.

He added the case could return to the High Court for a precise area to be mapped out if the two parties could not agree on a defined zone for fishing.

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