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

Campaigners fighting the dredging of the Goodwin Sands have gained a 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 argumentthat the government's MMOhad 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 wasbecause, 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 Thomson, 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.

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 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.”

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