Bibby Stockholm in Falmouth Docks, 2023


On 8 September 2023, Carralyn Parkes, a local resident, issued a judicial review claim challenging the Home Secretary’s use of the Bibby Stockholm barge to accommodate asylum-seekers at Portland Port in Dorset, without obtaining planning permission. Although Ms Parkes is a Portland Town Councillor and Mayor of Portland, she is acting in her personal capacity as a private individual and local resident. Dorset Council and Portland Port Limited are listed as Interested Parties in the claim, meaning that they will have opportunity to make submissions, file evidence and participate in the case.

The High Court has categorised the claim as a Significant Planning Claim and therefore the proceedings are being expedited. The Defendant and Interested Parties will file their initial responses and any evidence by 2 October. A one-day ‘permission hearing’ has been listed in the Planning Court at the Royal Courts of Justice on 10 October 2023. At the hearing, the Judge will determine whether our client’s case is ‘arguable’ and should proceed to a full hearing and whether costs capping under the Aarhus Convention should apply.

Our client is asking the Court to declare that the Home Office’s use of the barge as asylum accommodation is capable of constituting ‘development’ for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and therefore that it may amount to a breach of planning control and may be the subject of enforcement by Dorset Council. Her claim argues that the Home Office is attempting the ‘technical wheeze’ of using a boat as asylum accommodation to circumvent normal planning rules, which would apply if the barge was instead installed on land. As a result, local residents’ ability to raise objections to the barge and its use in Portland, via their local authority, is severely hampered. It also places the barge outside the reach of important statutory protections such as overcrowding legislation.

Ms Parkes also argues that the Home Office has not complied with its environmental impact assessment duties. An inadequate appraisal was only conducted after asylum seekers had been moved onto the barge, and several months after the Home Office had declared its intention of using the barge for that purpose. The assessment fails to consider the impact of long-term use, required as the Home Office’s proposal leaves open the option to use the barge indefinitely or far longer than the indicative 18-month period. It fails to consider impacts on human health, and is based on several erroneous assumptions, including that rooms will not be shared, and that overcrowding legislation would apply.

The claim also argues that the Home Office has not complied with its Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010, which includes prohibition on discrimination on the basis of race, and a duty to foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic (such as race), and those who do not. It is argued that the Equality Impact Assessment, conducted only days before the barge’s use commenced, is woefully inadequate as it fails to consider the impact of the barge’s operation in radicalising far-right extremism and in segregating rather than integrating asylum seekers.

Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors says ‘Our client is taking a brave stand against the Home Office’s attempts to circumvent important planning rules and protections to use the Bibby Stockholm barge to accommodate vulnerable asylum seekers. She is asking the Court to rule that proper procedures should be followed and that local people and authorities should be given the opportunity to have their say.’

Carralyn Parkes is represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors, instructing Alex Goodman KC and Alex Shattock of Landmark Chambers, and Penelope Nevill and Fiona Petersen of Twenty Essex Chambers.


Media contact: Deighton Pierce Glynn –

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

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