Whitsand Bay campaigners win decision against Rame Head sea dumping site

The Plymouth Herald reports, 6th March 2017: Campaigners have won an unprecedented victory to stop dredgers dumping silt next to a marine beauty spot.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has announced that dumping will no longer be allowed off Rame Head, in Whitsand Bay.

Instead, the agency has designated a new disposal site in deeper water nine kilometres south-west of Plymouth Sound breakwater.

The Rame Head site has been used for more than 100 years to dispose of silt dredged from the Tamar and the Cattewater in Plymouth. More than six million tonnes of spoil — mainly dredged from the River Tamar to enable the passage of ships to Devonport Dockyard — have been dumped over the past 30 years alone.

Diver Dave Peake from the Stop Dumping in Whitsand Bay group was one of the first to highlight the problem, with photographs of silt-covered sea life in the Whitsand and Looe Bay Marine Conservation Zone, which borders the dump site.

In 2014 the MMO temporarily halted dumping after the group launched a judicial review against a licence. Last year, after Millbrook man Tonny Steenhagen launched a second judicial review of the latest licence, the MMO began a search for a new dump zone.

Dredgers are expected to start work later this month but Mr Steenhagen was celebrating the news that they will have to take the silt further offshore.

“It’s a massive victory for the environment and for community power,” Mr Steenhagen said.

“There was always a core group involved, but when we needed to rally the troops people turned up in the pouring rain. When we needed to fund-raise to pay for legal action, the response was enormous. Our MP, Sheryll Murray, was part of the active campaign until 2010 but I feel she could have taken a more prominent stance locally to continue to promote the issue.”

He added: “This campaign has set a precedent. Nobody in the UK has ever challenged a dump site before.”

Mr Peake, who began the campaign 20 years ago and showed that silt was coming inshore, welcomed the news. “Whitsand Bay just wasn’t the right place to have a disposal site,” he said.

“Some might argue that we shouldn’t be dumping at sea at all, but if we have no alternative, it shouldn’t be next to a marine conservation zone. This decision is good for the bay and for local people.”

The new site is near the Western Channel Observatory’s L4 scientific buoy, operated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML). The MMO said PML was now happy after initial fears about the impact.

PML said its scientists had been working closely with the MMO and Cefas to find an alternative site to the one initially proposed last November. “We are pleased that our scientific expertise has been of assistance and that our evidence has been taken on board to reach an acceptable outcome. We will continue to liaise closely with the MMO regarding any impacts upon the Western Channel Observatory from the future dumping of dredged material.”

Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, said: “I am pleased to see the proposed new disposal site, to be known as Plymouth Deep, is the optimal, sustainable alternative disposal site for dredged material. I have been working towards this since my days at Caradon District Council, Cornwall County Council and before as my constituents will know and press reports will confirm.

“I have been in close contact with both the Minister and the chief executive of the MMO and facilitated very many meetings with both ministers and shadow ministers and public meetings since the 1990s. When first elected as the MP in 2010, I arranged for ministers to meet with campaigners. Due to the large amount of work I have put into making this happen I have not been able to notify every constituent of every step along the route but am pleased that at last my efforts have proved fruitful.”


Source: Plymouth Herald, 6th March 2017. For the full details, see www.plymouthherald.co.uk/victory-for-whitsand-bay-anti-dump-campaign/story-30183511-detail/story.html


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