Legal action threat delays stricken Devon ship towing

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Severn Sands
Image caption,
The 600-tonne vessel is believed to contain asbestos, tyres, diesel and oil

Work to dispose of a 600-tonne stricken ship in north Devon has been delayed because of a legal dispute.

The former dredger the Severn Sands was due to be towed to Instow Jetty on the River Taw.

It is currently being kept near Yelland, about three miles (4.8km) up river, after a nearby landowner threatened action if it went to Instow.

Coastguards said they were working with river users and agencies to move it "somewhere acceptable".

The ship - believed to contain asbestos, tyres, four tonnes of diesel and oil, plus unknown chemicals - slipped its moorings at Fremington during a spring tide in September.

It was due to be taken to Instow on the River Taw for about eight weeks to be assessed, unloaded and dismantled.

The legal threat was made just as the towing operation got under way on Thursday.

Donald McDonald of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said attempts at a compromise were being made to be able to land the vessel and begin the work.

He said: "We're working with environment groups, Natural England, the Environment Agency and other users of the estuary for an assessment of where we can possibly place the vessel tonight.

"We want it to be somewhere that will be acceptable to all and give us greater access and we'll be able to continue the operation from there."

The MCA, North Devon Council, Bideford Harbour Authority and the Environment Agency have been involved in the recovery operation.

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