Bibby Stockholm in Falmouth Docks, 2023

Judicial review challenging government failure to obtain necessary planning permission for Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset

On 7 August 2023, our client Carralyn Parkes, a local resident, put the Government on notice of her intention to challenge the Home Secretary’s failure to obtain necessary planning permission to use the Bibby Stockholm barge to accommodate asylum seekers in Portland Harbour in Dorset. While Ms Parkes is Mayor of Portland, and town councillor of the Underhill ward where the barge is located, she is bringing this challenge in her private capacity as a local resident, and not on behalf of any public body.Dorset Council have said publicly that they consider that planning permission is not necessary for the installation, operation and use of the barge in Dorset to accommodate asylum seekers, because the barge lies below the mean low water mark, and is therefore not within the local planning authority’s jurisdiction.

The barge arrived in the Harbour on 18 July 2023. The Home Office sent out notices to asylum seekers stating that it was intended to transfer them to the barge on 1 August 2023. The Home Office intends to transfer over 500 asylum seekers onto the barge, and began transferring people onto the barge on 7 August 2023.

In her letter to the Home Secretary, Ms Parkes sets out why planning permission is required for the barge to be used as the Government intends.

First, our client argues that Portland Harbour is within the jurisdiction of the local planning authority. By proceeding without it, the Home Secretary is circumventing the proper planning process. There is legal authority for the proposition that the ‘mean low water mark’ concept has to be interpreted flexibly as to the circumstances, and in the specific geographical and historical circumstances of Portland Harbour, a sensible boundary is the outer limits of the Harbour.

Second, the barge is effectively a permanent structure, moored and connected to the land to operate with supplies for electricity, sewage, for people and staff to get on and off, and for the moving of supplies. It is therefore more akin to a pier, dock or marina than a transient vessel. This permanent mooring extends the planning jurisdiction, and the barge therefore requires planning permission.

Third, various works have been carried out on shore in order to support the Barge. Those works – including the creation of an exercise area, erection of fences and structures, changing a building’s use to hold regular meetings regarding the barge, and installation of plumbing and electricity – require planning permission, either together with the Barge as a ‘planning unit’ or in their own right.

Establishing that the local authority has jurisdiction over the barge would also have implications for the application of overcrowding legislation and environmental control regulations to the barge.

Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors say: ‘The Home Secretary is circumventing planning permission procedures to use the Bibby Stockholm barge to accommodate vulnerable asylum seekers in conditions which are clearly inadequate The Home Secretary’s plans have caused widespread concern in our client’s local community, and have deprived the Council of its ability to exert relevant planning control. We will be asking the Court to declare that planning permission is required, and that the Home Secretary must follow the relevant procedures.’

Carralyn Parkes is represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors, instructing Penelope Nevill of Twenty Essex Chambers, Alex Shattock of Landmark Chambers and Fiona Petersen of Twenty Essex Chambers. She is relying on crowdfunding for her own legal costs and to cover the risk that costs are awarded against her. Her crowdfunding page can be found on the Crowdjustice website.

Media contact: Deighton Pierce Glynn –

Photograph: Bibby Stockholm in Falmouth Docks, 2023.  Ashley Smith

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