Court bid to sink Le Clem

CAMPAIGNERS have scored a first victory in their fight to stop the controversial aircraft carrier Clemenceau being scrapped in Hartlepool.

A High Court date has been set to decide the future of the French vessel – and Able UK bosses have agreed not to bring it to the UK until the case is settled.

Jubilant campaigners say the news is a "massive step forward" in their fight to stop the 700ft vessel being broken up at Able UK's Graythorp site.

Lawyers will gather at the High Court on September 29 when a decision will be made whether to grant protesters a judicial review into the decision to allow the ship to be scrapped.

The Clemenceau has previously been turned away from a number of foreign countries on safety grounds.

The legal battle centres on whether it should have been given an exemption by the Health and Safety Executive to be dismantled in town.

The legal challenge was mounted by Friends of Hartlepool.

Member Jean Kennedy told the Mail: "To get this is tremendous. To get a judicial review there has to be very strong grounds and this really shows how strong our argument is.

"It is a massive, massive achievement."

The protest came after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) granted Able UK an exemption to bring the 50-year-old ship to Hartlepool.

Public Interest Lawyers, which handle high-profile environmental and humanitarian cases, said the (HSE) acted 'unlawfully' by granting an exemption to asbestos regulations to allow the ship to be scrapped in Hartlepool.

Solicitor Gavin Sullivan today told the Mail that the High Court had granted an application for 'urgent consideration' of the application, which could normally take months to reach court.

He said: "The fact that this order has been made confirms our view that our client has a strong prima facie case and the court has ordered that the matter be expedited and heard on September 29."

He added that discussions were ongoing with Able UK but the company had given an undertaking Able UK had given an undertaking not to bring the Clemenceua

Able UK chairman Peter Stephenson said that the actual legal challenge was for the HSE to counter but confirmed the ship would stay in France until its future is decided.

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said: "The HSE can confirm that this exemption decision has been challenged by a Hartlepool resident. The HSE cannot comment further until after the matter has been heard."