New Whitsand Bay dredging plan sparks environmental protest

Protestors holding a banner near Tregantle Fort
Image caption Protests by the campaign group have previously attracted between hundreds of people

New plans to dump silt off the coast of Cornwall have sparked a third protest by campaigners, eleven months after a previous licence was declared unlawful.

A new application to dump silt from Devonport Dockyard at Whitsand Bay has been submitted to the coastal waters protection agency, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Campaigners claim the disposal harms marine life in a nearby Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

But the MMO said this was "unlikely".

Image caption The Whitsand and Looe MCZ lies around the bay between Looe and Rame Head
Image copyright Dave Peake
Image caption Campaigners fear the dredged material could affect marine life in the bay

The MMO said it had investigated whether the disposals of silt off Rame Head had affected the Whitsand and Looe MCZ, and that government scientific advisors found "it was unlikely".

The government organisation has been involved in a long-running dispute with campaigners, who claim that toxic materials from the dredging smothers reefs and kills rare pink sea fans near the MCZ.

In January, the MMO agreed to revoke a licence it granted in 2014, after papers filed at the High Court said the decision-making process was inadequate.

Debbie Hoskin, demonstration organiser, said: "It's not a dump site and we as a community see the effects. We have photographs of sea life smothered by silt.

"This is a pristine sand and shell seabed, it's not mud, it's not silt, it doesn't belong there."

Around 150 people took part in the demonstration near Tregantle Fort.

An MoD spokesman said: "In consultation with the MMO and their advisors, the MoD has considered various methods of disposal and the conclusion is that sea disposal to a designated site is appropriate for this application.

"The MoD is fully committed to the protection of the environment and has worked closely with the MMO and their advisors to ensure the application complies with all environmental requirements.

"If a new disposal site is established then the MoD would apply to use it. If siltation levels in other areas of the naval base reach critical levels then we will have to apply for a further licence to dispose at the MMO's local disposal site at the appropriate time."

The consultation window on the current licence application is open until 11 January 2016.

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