Stop Dumping In Whitsand Bay

Update – January 2016 The Marine Management Organisation – a non-departmental public body sponsored by DEFRA – seems determined to continue dumping. Shortly we will see an application by them for a new licence.

This week (20th January 2015), a consent order has been filed in the High Court – This effectively means that the the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has conceded that the licence issuing process which led to the current licence was flawed, rendering that licence invalid. This is a great outcome for the Stop Dumping in Whitsand Bay group!


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On 26th November 2014, when our clients secured a judicial review, the MMO said that they had found a copy of a document showing that a crucial study that appeared not to have carried out, had been. No original could be found however and the MMO were given a deadline – which expires tomorrow – to produce it.

The report below setting out the case is taken from our October 2014 newsletter.

Breaking News: JR go ahead for Stop Dumping in Whitsand Bay campaign

You may remember back in our June newsletter we reported on a matter that ELF had been involved with assisting a campaign group in Whitsand Bay, Cornwall; “Stop Dumping in Whitsand Bay” who have been campaigning for years to stop the dredging and dumping at sea of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of dredged and contaminated silt, in a marine rich environment. On 7th March 2004 the latest in a series of permits was issued by the MMO under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, to Westminster Dredging Company Limited trading as Boskalis Westminster Limited. The dump site lies 800 metres from a newly designated Marine Conservation Zone. In addition the dredging is undertaken in a heavily protected ecological marine environment being both a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation. We were delighted when Lisa Foster of Richard Buxton’s solicitors and Matthew Reed of Landmark accepted initial pro-bono instructions.


Beggiatoa Bacteria in 6 metres depth at Polhawn Cove. This grows where there is little or no oxygen, normally in so called, dead zones.

We heard yesterday, 8th October, that permission has been granted for Judicial Review proceedings to go ahead. There was some nervousness that the judge would not grant permission on the papers alone. This nervousness proved unfounded. This matter should be of great interest to all those concerned with the protection and regulation of the marine environment. In light of the recently created and designated Marine Conservation Zones, this case may have far reaching ramifications.

My first visit to Whitsand Bay was while on holiday in the early 1980 and I instantly fell in love with the area. I’ve been living on the Rame Peninsula for nearly 20 years now with my wife and 3 daughters. I still look at the area through the ‘eyes of a tourist’ and not a day goes by without appreciating the beauty that’s right here on our doorstep.

The Rame Peninsula has been called the ‘Forgotten Corner of Cornwall’ for a long time. It still is pretty much off the beaten tracks today for the majority of tourists who travel into Cornwall via the A38. In days gone by visitors braved the dangerous Cremyll Ferry crossing, made their way to Millbrook and then got transported to- and down the Whitsand Bay cliffs donkeys. Apart from the chalets on the cliff the area is still relatively untouched. All this beauty is in massive contrast with the continued dumping of dredged spoil in a disused ammunitions dump in the bay, since November 2013 right next to a Marine Conservation Zone!

Premium WordPress ThemesIn 2010 my wife organised the Whitsand Bay beach demonstration. As a result of this a committee was formed in 2011 to look into the ‘outstanding issues’ to do with the continued dumping in the bay. I joined this committee together with 3 other concerned locals. As we all felt the committee had run its course without much result (we did get a stipulation in the license sorted that the dumping needed to be in the deepest corner of the site) and without much support from our MP the locals left in late 2013 to concentrate at what we do best: mobilise the public.

“…without ELF and the expertise they were able to put us in touch with I fear it would have been years more of the same, meetings with officials so they could tick the box, and change nothing.”
My wife organised the January 2014 Rame Head demonstration while the new license was pending. I did attend a meeting in Liskeard to discuss issues with George Eustice, very last minute called by our MP. But… all to no avail. In March 2014 a new 3 year license to dump 367.000 tonnes in Whitsand Bay was granted again by the MMO, despite lots of objections and dumping continued within days.

When I started to take a closer look at the license I discovered that certain parts of the Dockyards were excluded from dredging due to heavy metals in the silt. I asked the MMO if they could let us know these areas were not dredged. As a reply they simply issued a variation on the license and I never found out if they indeed had dredged these areas (and dumped in the bay).

BBC spotlight has been very supportive. This year alone they have dedicated at least 5 spots on the issue, including a feature on the Pink Sea Fan, present in the new MCZ, for which I was interviewed after I sent questions to the MMO and George Eustice. I am one of the five signatories under request for judicial review and without ELF and the expertise they were able to put us in touch with I fear it would have been years more of the same, meetings with officials so they could tick the box, and change nothing.

Tonny Steenhagen

Ihave always loved Whitsand Bay, for as long as I can remember, going to Polhawn with my family as often as we could. I have also always felt very close to nature, we are part of nature and I recognised from a young age, how everything is connected, and that if each of us could do something small to help, then the world to be a better place. By caring for the natural environment, people, wildlife, then things could be better than we have so far made them. Whitsand Bay is being dumped on. That is what I heard and saw from Dave Peake, five or six years ago. I saw such devastating photos of how the silt was destroying some of the wildlife and pristine sea bed. I heard Dave’s impassioned plea to save the beauty he had known since a child also.

Beggiatoa Bacteria in 6 metres depth at Polhawn Cove. This grows where there is little or no oxygen, normally in so called, dead zones.

While out walking around Rame Head, soon after in June Spring Equinox 2010, I saw a seal, and the realisation that it could be effected by this dumping, this beautiful mammal, I knew I had to do something, Dolphins, Seals etc are at the top of the Foodchain, like us Humans, what about our children, what were the dangers? The fact that we knew that there were unseen cocktails of toxins within the silt dredged from busy ship yards in the Tamar and we did not know what harm it could do, because nobody had tested the dangers of the mixtures. A science lecturer told me that when the TBT present in the silt is dredged up and mixed with oxygen, that this changes it to a far more dangerous toxin that could enter the food chain. All this went through my mind and heart as I watched the seal, and I knew I had to do something.

I pictured a line of people standing together hand in hand across the shore of Whitsand bay. I knew I had to try, to offer out to the community and organised it, for this to happen. It did happen in July 2010, and it was poignant, and beautiful. Please see the videos below:

The dredging continued, so at an obvious point when the new license was about to be renewed in January 2014, I put out to the community to stand again Click here to watch the video. This time at Rame Head. The impact of this has led to the Judicial Review, through many lovely determined people putting in massive effort with the community behind them. We stand as a community together and we will stop this terrible act of irresponsibility. I wholeheartedly believe that.

Deb Hoskin

Where do I begin…?

kayakI kayak the river Dart as a hobby and I am a voluntary coach in the sport so have a reasonable amount of knowledge on the salmon and trout spawning ground on the Dart. I have been concerned about the dredging of the Tamar smelt hot spots, as we all know that this is the main source of food for the salmon as they travel up the Dart to spawn.

Historically for me, Whitsand Bay has been an inspirational and magical place to grow up. Since 1962 when I was born, it became part of my life alongside that of my Parents, Grandparents and the rest of my family. Enjoying the natural environment and the wonders of Mother Nature. Fishing off the rocks off Rame, boating and our summers were always spent at Whitsands in the chalet.

P1020991My Grandfather was one of the first few to build two chalets at Tregonhawke. Needless to say I am very passionate about the place and feel it is our duty to protect the natural environs of such a beautiful awe inspiring piece of our planet. Having travelled extensively around the world it is Rame and the Whitsand Bay that pulls me back.

My Background is that I am very local, having lived in Millbrook all my life and I am a local business women who cares about the local environment. I began talks with Dave Peake a local diver about 10 years ago and we later formed a group becoming the campaigners to Stop the Dumping in Whitsand Bay. We were meeting officials such as The Plymouth Harbour Master, Defra, MOD, MMO and other official representatives on a regular basis to try and find an alternative. This became fruitless after 18 months but rather than give up the campaign we sought outside help.

Terri came along to one of our group meetings and for once we felt like we were given a window of opportunity to do something constructive. Terri, ELF & Buxton’s Solicitors have all helped us in achieving a Judicial Review against the MMO. I have to say we never in a million years thought that this would be an historic moment when the judge granted this to us. Without the help of these people we would still be trying to achieve this first hurdle, hopefully they will be with us as we go through what could feasibly be more hurdles to come.

I have been amazed at the tremendous support from local people and people from afar who have lived in the area and moved away as they have donated to our fundraising campaign. It is wonderful that there are people who care about the damage that the dredged spoil deposited in our bay is doing.

We are not opposed to the dredging but it has to be done in the correct manner as there are processes to be adhered to. If the dredged spoil is good enough to be dumped at sea surely in this day and age it could go for land fill and be of some use instead of killing off marine life. Thousands of tonnes of dredged spoil have been dumped on the sea bed smothering and suffocating fish and fauna – this is not acceptable.

I would like to see a moratorium on the dumping in the bay for at least 30 years so we can study what Mother Nature can restore.


Photos courtesy of the Stop Dumping in Whitsand Bay group