Whitsand Bay dump permit unlawful, watchdog admits

Whitsand Bay, Cornwall Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Material dredged from Devonport is dumped in Whitsand Bay

A coastal waters protection agency unlawfully issued a licence for dumping thousands of tonnes of silt off Cornwall.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has agreed to quash the licence and admitted it was "made unlawfully".

Papers filed at the High Court said there were "inadequacies" in the way it took the decision to issue the licence.

Campaigners fear dumping silt from around Devonport docks at Whitsand Bay could affect protected species.

The MMO issued a licence in March 2014 to dump 370,000 tonnes of silt about 800m from a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) at Whitsand Bay.

Campaigners said in a judicial review that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) did not consider the protection of sensitive habitats.

It follows a long-running dispute between the MMO and environmental campaigners who say toxic materials from the dredging is smothering reefs and killing rare pink sea fans near the MCZ.

The organisation must now issue a new licence, but it is unclear if another will be granted so close to the conservation zone.

Marine consultant Terri Portman, of Stop Dumping in Whitsand Bay, said: "We have nothing against dredging, but in this day and age we know better than to simply use the marine environment as a rubbish bin.

"The ruling is a huge step forward so the regulator thinks seriously about dumping.

"It is just not good enough to continue dumping in Whitsand Bay."

The MMO said: "The judicial review proceedings are still very much ongoing and as such we cannot comment further on the case at this time."

The Royal Navy said dredging was essential to give ships access to the yard.

Dredging firm Westminster Boskalis has not yet commented.

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