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High Court judge gives green light to judicial review over approval of dredging of sandbanks near Dover

A High Court judge has granted a claimant permission for a judicial review of the Marine Management Organisation’s decision to allow Dover Harbour Board to dredge three million tonnes of aggregate from the South Goodwins sandbank.

According to campaign group Goodwin Sands SOS (Save Our Sands), Mrs Justice Thornton granted leave on the ground of challenge that the MMO had not considered the impact of the physical removal of the volume of two million m3 of sand from a designated Protected Feature within the Goodwin Sands proposed Marine Conservation Zone.

“They had only considered the impact of removing the surface area of the subtidal sand, which is a designated Protected Feature within the proposed Marine Conservation Zone,” the group said.

However, claimant Joanna Thomson was refused leave for her second ground, which was that the MMO could not conclude that dredging would pose no risk to the underwater cultural heritage of the Goodwin Sands because the relevant document had not been agreed and finalised before making their decision.

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The claimant’s lawyers, Richard Buxton Solicitors, are considering appealing against this ruling.

Thomson said: “This is a major step forward for all of us who consider the Goodwin Sands should not be subject to rapacious mining by Dover Harbour Board, or anyone else. They are quite simply, not a quarry to be exploited by a budget driven developer trying to get away with applying 1980’s lack of regulations to the present-day requirements of detailed Environmental Statements.”

The judicial review is expected to be held in June.

The costs cap against the claimant in case she loses was capped at £10K. However, Richard Buxton plans to appeal this also “as it is based entirely on the expectation of being able to raise more funds”.

Richard Buxton instructed Marie Demetriou QC and Daniel Piccinin of Brick Court Chambers.

A Port of Dover spokesperson said: "The Port of Dover is obviously disappointed to note that permission to apply for judicial review in respect of the Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) decision to grant a marine licence in relation to the Goodwin Sands has been granted by the Planning Court, particularly as the previous decision by the High Court described the case as ‘hopeless and comes close to being certified as wholly without merit’. The case will now proceed to a substantive hearing that will focus on one narrow technical issue relating to topography.

“The initial decision by the MMO to grant the licence followed extensive, iterative and consultative process which included all respective primary consultees, among them Historic England and Natural England. The MMO granted the licence to Dover Harbour Board on 26 July 2018.

“The MMO is an independent, evidence based decision maker and the licensing authority for England and we continue to have full confidence in the marine licence application process, and the resulting consent from the MMO.”

A spokesperson for the Marine Management Organisation said: “The MMO is aware that permission has been granted to proceed to judicial review on one of the grounds submitted. It would be inappropriate to engage further on this matter at this stage.”

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