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Mrs Justice Thornton at the High Court grants judicial review to GSSOS over Goodwin Sands dredging by Port of Dover

By Sam Lennon

Campaigners fighting the dredging of the Goodwin Sands have gained major step forward by being granted a judicial review.

The pressure group Goodwin Sands SOS (Save Our Sands) was last Friday awarded the review by the High Court.

This is to examine the Marine Management Organisation's decision to grant a licence for the Port of Dover to dredge 3 million tonnes of aggregate from the shifting sands off Deal.

Pictured outside the High Court from left, Daniel Piccinin of Brick Court Chambers, Mrs Thomson and Paul Taylor of Richard Buxton Ltd solicitors. Picture courtesy of Goodwin Sands SOS
Pictured outside the High Court from left, Daniel Piccinin of Brick Court Chambers, Mrs Thomson and Paul Taylor of Richard Buxton Ltd solicitors. Picture courtesy of Goodwin Sands SOS

The Honourable Mrs Justice Thornton granted solicitors leave to proceed to a review on one of two grounds presented to the court by Marie Demetriou QC of the London firm Brick Court Chambers.

Leave was granted following the argument that the government's MMO had not considered the impact of the physical removal of the volume of 2 million cubic metres of sand from a designated Protected Feature in a proposed Marine Conservation Zone

GSSOS argues that the MMO had only considered the impact of removing the surface area of the subtidal sand, which is a designated Protected Feature within the proposed MCZ.

But leave was refused for the second assertion, that the MMO could not conclude that dredging would pose no risk to the underwater cultural heritage of the Goodwin Sands.

This was because, it was argued, the relevant document had not been agreed and finalised before making its decision.

A legal firm representing GSSOS camping co-ordinator Joanna Thomsons, Richard Buxton Ltd, is considering appealing against that ruling.

Judge Thornton overturned a previous ruling by Judge David Holgate, who had initially refused leave to proceed.

The judicial review is expected to take place in June.

Mrs Thomson said after the hearing: "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 1980s lack of regulations to the present day requirements of detailed environmental statements."

GSSOS supporters welcoming the decision included a man whose uncle was shot down over the Sands during the Second World War.

Richard Kerr-Wilson said; "The Goodwins should be respected as a war grave for those who gave their lives for their country during the war."

Flying Officer Jack Kerr Wilson was shot down in May 1940.

The Goodwin Sands. Picture: Ian Goodban
The Goodwin Sands. Picture: Ian Goodban

Key fears of GSSOS are the disturbance of wartime remains through dredging plus environmental damage.

The Port of Dover, which was granted the licence last July, wants to dredge a small part of the shifting sands, near Deal, for its major Dover Western Docks Revival redevelopment.

It argues that it would only take 0.22% of the Sands.

GSSOSS needs tens of thousands of pounds for its battles through the courts over the next few months.

A total £30,000 has been raised but another £30,000 is needed at present.

If you want to contribute see the web link crowdjustice.com/case/help-us-save-the-goodwin-sands/

The continuing progress on the Dover Western Docks Revival, as photographed in January
The continuing progress on the Dover Western Docks Revival, as photographed in January

A spokesman for the Port of Dover said: “We are obviously disappointed e that permission to apply for a judicial review has been granted, 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 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.

"This includes a number of conditions specifically designed to protect the environment, war graves, archaeology, and the wider historic environment.”

.

We won a significant battle at the High Court yesterday MAR 8, when claimant Joanna Thomson was awarded a Judicial Review of the Marine Management Organisation’s decision to allow Dover Harbour Board to dredge 3 million tonnes of aggregate from the South Goodwins sandbank.

The Judge, The Honourable Mrs Justice Thornton granted Joanna’s solicitors leave to proceed to a Judicial Review on one of the two grounds presented to the court by Marie Demetriou QC of Brick Court Chambers, London.

Leave was granted on account of the fact that the MMO had not considered the impact of the physical removal of the volume of 2 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.

Leave was refused for the second ground, 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. Joanna’s, Richard Buxton Ltd, are considering appealing against this ruling.

Richard Kerr-Wilson, whose uncle Flying Officer Jack Kerr Wilson (no hyphen on purpose) was shot down over the Goodwins in May 1940, welcomed the decision, saying that ‘the Goodwins should be respected as a war grave for those who gave their lives for their country during WWII’.

After the hearing, Joanna stated ‘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 Sands, which are a proposed Marine Conservation Zone, have been described by Wessex Archaeology, who reviewed data for Dover Harbour Board’s environmental consultants, as ‘archaeologically extraordinary’ on account of their holding the highest density of maritime assets in UK waters.

Judge Justine Thornton overturned a previous ruling by Judge David Holgate, who initially refused leave to proceed, in what could only be described as ‘a vitriolic rant from someone who had clearly not read the papers properly’.

It is anticipated that the Judicial Review will be held in June and will take place at the High Court. Dover Harbour Board requested that the hearing took place before 21st June 2019 and this was accepted by both the Judge and Joanna’s Counsel. The costs cap against Joanna in case she loses was capped at £10K but Richard Buxton wants to appeal this also as it is based entirely on the expectation of being able to raise more funds.

A transcript of Judge Thornton’s summing up will be made available in due course.

Outside the Royal Courts of Justice – from L-R: Daniel Piccinin of Brick Court Chambers, Mrs Joanna Thomson, Paul Taylor of Richard Buxton Ltd (solicitors)

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