Bibby Stockholm in Falmouth Docks, 2023

Portland Mayor takes Dorset Council to Court over the Bibby Stockholm barge

Our client, Carralyn Parkes, has issued a further judicial review claim in the High Court challenging the ongoing decision by Dorset Council that it has no planning jurisdiction over the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland Harbour. Our client is seeking a determination by the Court that Dorset Council has erred in law in determining it cannot take planning enforcement action against the use and/or stationing of the Bibby Stockholm barge connected to a finger pier and access road in Portland Harbour, notwithstanding that the Home Secretary has not applied for planning permission.

Carralyn is a long-time local resident in Portland and the Mayor of Portland. She is one of the 14 town councillors elected to the Portland Town Council representing the Underhill Ward where the Bibby Stockholm is berthed; however, she is bringing the proceedings in her personal capacity.

Our client is extremely concerned that the failure of Dorset Council to take enforcement action is enabling the Home Office to push through its plan to house approximately 500 asylum seekers on the barge in Portland Harbour, circumventing the proper planning process. The approach has caused local tensions and overwhelming opposition to the plans.

On 7 August 2023, a group of asylum seekers were transferred onto the vessel with minimal notice, only to be urgently evacuated a few days later due to the discovery of a hazardous strain of legionella on board. We understand that the Home Secretary intends to transfer asylum seekers onto the barge again imminently.

Carralyn issued previous proceedings against the Home Secretary in respect of the use of the barge to accommodate asylum seekers. However, permission was refused on 11 October 2023 by Mr Justice Holgate following an expedited oral permission hearing in which Mr Justice Holgate suggested that the Home Secretary was not the correct target for the claim, seemingly putting responsibility for planning objections solely on local authorities.

Following the Court’s decision, our client has therefore been left with no option but to issue a claim against Dorset Council for their ongoing failure to take enforcement action in respect of the Bibby Stockholm, which she believes is part of their jurisdiction. Establishing that the local authority has jurisdiction over the barge would allow the nature of the plans to be properly examined and would ensure that relevant regulations are complied with. This is therefore a significant and important planning case with wider implications for the powers of local authorities.

Our client said:

I have been really reluctant to take my local authority to Court. Although I am acting as a private individual, as an elected Town Councillor I recognise the difficult position that the Home Secretary has put Dorset Council in. However, I also strongly disagree with Dorset Council’s ongoing determination that it does not have jurisdiction over the Bibby Stockholm barge. I feel very strongly that the decision to accommodate people in this way in Portland has been imposed upon us as the local community, without any consultation, without proper processes being followed, and without local people having the opportunity to raise concerns and objections. I believe that in the Twenty First Century the Bibby Stockholm is a wholly unsuitable place to house asylum seekers and I am very concerned about the risks to the vulnerable people who will shortly again be accommodated on the barge”.

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 –

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