The Honourable Sir Duncan Ouseley has dismissed Goodwin Sands SOS claim for the marine aggregate dredging licence granted to Dover Harbour Board for the Goodwin Sands to be quashed. SOS’s legal advisors have advised against appealing the decision.
Spokesman for the SOS group Joanna Thomson said “we are naturally very disappointed at this decision. It was a tough legal challenge but we had to pursue every avenue to save this precious and unique environment. However, the campaign is far from over. This Judicial Review related only to a specific environmental matter. The dredging’s impact upon war graves and the internationally important underwater cultural heritage (UCH) remains to be resolved by the MMO and Historic England“.
Mrs Thomson continued “the Archaeological Written Scheme of Investigation (AWSI), yet to be formulated, should provide protection for our heritage and we shall fight to ensure that it does, if necessary by further legal action. Furthermore, the issue of allowing dredging of a protected habitat in a Marine Conservation Zone also needs addressing at the highest level without delay, as it makes a complete mockery of the whole MCZ programme. Protection must mean protection”.
Despite losing this round of the Judicial Review, the community group can be proud of its many achievements:
- it has prevented the destruction by dredging of at least two military aircraft crash sites and two potentially valuable shipwrecks. These lie in the original dredge zone and had not been detected by Dover Harbour Board’s consultants. Damaging military aircraft crash sites is unlawful under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.
- it has forced the Marine Management Organisation to allow the public to comment on the revised draft AWSI before the pre-dredge surveys can start.
- it has highlighted the considerable failings in the marine licensing process which must be addressed.
- it has created the Goodwin Sands Conservation Trust which will educate the public and raise awareness of the cultural, environmental and historical significance of the Sands. The Trust’s main goal is to inscribe the Goodwins as the first UNESCO marine cultural World Heritage Site.
Dredging the Goodwins will have three important impacts:
- it completely undermines the protection supposedly provided by Marine Conservation Zones. The subtidal sand targeted for extraction was designated a Protected Habitat on 31stMay 2019. The Marine Management Organisation concluded that removing 3 million tonnes of this sand would not hinder the conservation objectives as Natural England had advised them the habitat would recover in 5 years.
- it poses a serious risk to our underwater cultural heritage. Dover Harbour Board’s contractors have not positively identified any of the targets lying in the dredge zone and have dismissed all of them as being of no human interest ie part of a shipwreck or aircraft crash site. DHB has no idea what they are because they will not ground truth these targets by diver and / or ROV inspection.
- it jeopardises the inscription of a potential World Heritage Site
Dover Harbour Board’s marine licence allows them to dredge up to 3 million tonnes of dry aggregate until 31stDecember 2022. It will be used as landfill for their Dover Western Docks Revival project. No official use of the reclaimed land has been given but many consider it will be used as a lorry park.
The SOS group would like to thank all the many advisors who have so willingly and generously given their professional advice over the past three years. In particular, Paul Taylor and Richard Buxton of Richard Buxton solicitors and Marie Demetriou QC and Daniel Piccinin of Brick Court Chambers, who submitted a compelling legal argument on what was essentially a very narrow point.
They would also like to thank the fantastic supporters who so far have raised almost £50K for the legal fees and whose words of encouragement have helped to keep them persevering for the duration of this lengthy and challenging campaign..
Your continued support is vital to our eventual success.
You can read a copy of the official judgement here: https://goodwinsandssos.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Thomson-v-MMO-Approved-Judgement.pdf