Planning challenge to the Bibby Stockholm barge

by Carralyn Parkes

Planning challenge to the Bibby Stockholm barge

by Carralyn Parkes
Carralyn Parkes
Case Owner
I'm a Portland resident, a Portland town councillor and the Mayor of Portland. I'm doing this because I believe the barge is a terrible plan for our community as well as for asylum-seekers.
2
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£37,158
pledged of £40,000 stretch target from 1410 pledges
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Carralyn Parkes
Case Owner
I'm a Portland resident, a Portland town councillor and the Mayor of Portland. I'm doing this because I believe the barge is a terrible plan for our community as well as for asylum-seekers.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: Feb. 14, 2024

We're back in court in 2 weeks - can you help us reach our target?

The final preparations are underway before we take our case to court again, from 27 to 29 February 2024! At the hearing, the High Court will decide whether Dorset Council has the power to enforce pla…

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Will you help me bring a legal challenge to end the use of the Bibby Stockholm barge to contain over 500 asylum-seekers here in Portland?   

I'm Carralyn Parkes, a resident of Portland. I'm also the Mayor of Portland and a Portland town councillor (of the Underhill Ward, where the barge is berthed). However, I'm bringing this challenge as a local resident, not on behalf of Portland Town Council. Portland Town Council is effectively a parish council, and has no statutory powers to stop this barge. 

I'm an artist, an art historian and a former Weymouth college lecturer. I've lived on Portland for 25 years, and have brought up my family here. I don't receive any allowance (income) for being a councillor.

Why am I starting this legal action?

If you or I want to put up a porch at our home, we need to apply for planning permission. It's wrong that the Home Office does what it likes without complying with the same rules. If they'd applied for planning permission, they would have had to consult with local people - but we never got the right to have our say. I also believe that planning permission would have been refused.

I think containing people on the barge is an inhumane way to treat those fleeing from war, conflict or persecution. The people who will be placed on the barge are NOT ILLEGAL because their asylum claims have already started to be processed by the Home Office. These people are asking for our protection, not our cruelty.    

What I'm asking of you

I can't afford to fund this legal claim by myself - but I AM willing to front it, because I've never heard anyone (other than the government or the businesses involved) say it's a good idea. Not in Portland, not in the rest of the UK. Dorset Council has not pursued legal action so I feel I must do this on behalf of my community.  I'm willing to stand up and represent us all, across the UK, who are appalled by this barge. 

Together, we can hold the government to account, but I really need your support. If you think the barge is wrong, please help me to stop it. Please donate what you feel you can spare. And will you share this page? On your social media, on WhatsApp, or however you normally share.   

What am I trying to achieve? 

I'm asking the High Court to consider whether the Home Office's decision to place the barge here - without first seeking the correct permissions - was unlawful. This is called a 'judicial review'' or JR. I have a fantastic team of expert lawyers who believe they have evidence that the proper processes weren't followed and that if the Home Office had applied for planning permission, it would have had to be refused. 

The failure to seek planning permission has been the grounds for many successful JRs in the past. But to do this, I need your help to raise £15,000.

How will your donation be used?

I will be asking the court to "cap", or limit, my costs for the case if I lose. However, I still need to raise money for the amount that isn't capped (a bit like the excess on your insurance), plus any costs we have to pay out, and so that I can at least contribute to my legal team's costs because they are working on a very, very heavily discounted basis. I will not receive a penny of the crowdfunding myself. If I raise more than I need for this case, your donation could be used to help others make different kinds of legal challenges against the use of the Bibby Stockholm.

Who is my legal team?

My solicitors are Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG),  one of the leading human rights firms in the UK. My barristers are Penelope Nevill & Fiona Petersen from TwentyEssex and Alex Shattock from Landmark Chambers (who is a specialist in planning and public/government law). Between them, they have years of experience challenging unlawful decisions. Landmark Chambers and DPG have variously been involved at the other large-scale containment sites for asylum-seekers: 

  • Last year, in successfully ending the plans for RAF Linton-on-Ouse
  • In July 2023, in getting permission from the High Court to have a judicial review of the asylum accommodation centre at RAF Wethersfield (to be heard in autumn 2023)
  • In successfully challenging the unlawful use of Napier Barracks in Kent and Penally Camp in Wales.

Thank you so much for donating and standing with me in telling the Home Office that they must follow the law, like the public must, and that local communities refuse to be bullied.

Update 7

Carralyn Parkes

Feb. 14, 2024

We're back in court in 2 weeks - can you help us reach our target?

The final preparations are underway before we take our case to court again, from 27 to 29 February 2024! At the hearing, the High Court will decide whether Dorset Council has the power to enforce planning authority over the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Can you help us reach our stretch target before the hearing?

As the basis of our case, we are arguing that:

  • The boundaries of Dorset Council include Portland Harbour, because of the way that common law has historically dealt with harbours and enclosed bays. It is said that this is where the sea lies ‘within the jaws of the land’. We’re arguing that, rather than being like the open sea, these areas are more like rivers, estuaries or inland lakes (which ARE all subject to planning control). And that means there are obvious and sensible reasons why local authorities should have a say in what happens there.
  • Dorset Council must have the power to issue an enforcement notice on Crown-owned land (like the seabed in the harbour, within the outer breakwaters) because of the substantial impacts on the local community. The whole purpose of planning legislation is to manage the impact on local communities, so the law should be interpreted to make sure this is done.
  • The Bibby Stockholm is an engineless accommodation barge, a permanently moored structure. This makes it an ‘accretion from the sea’, like a pier, and therefore planning needs to be considered.
  • In any event, Dorset Council should consider planning enforcement over the change of use of the finger pier, and the access road, where the barge is moored.

We strongly believe that it is wrong that the Home Office and Dorset Council continue to avoid the planning issues raised by the Bibby Stockholm. If it had been berthed almost anywhere else (for example, on the dock, on land, in a lake or on a canal), things would be very different. It is wrong to take away local people’s ability to have a say over what goes on in their community.

On a positive note, we are very pleased to read media reports that the Home Office is no longer planning to use more barges. The experience of those sent to the Bibby Stockholm shows how disastrous and inappropriate this plan always was. Tragically, one person lost his life. Many hundreds more have had to suffer isolation, overcrowding and deteriorating mental health. The barge is very expensive and dangerous, and it’s time to close it down for good.

All are welcome to attend at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, London. 

Wish us luck!  

Update 6

Carralyn Parkes

Dec. 14, 2023

We have a date for our next court hearing

In October, I posted an update here with the disappointing news that we had been unsuccessful in our claim against the Home Office at the High Court. The judge suggested we should have brought the claim against the local planning authority – so the next day, that’s exactly what we did: we lodged a claim against Dorset Council.

Dorset Council is still saying that it has no planning jurisdiction over the berthing of the Bibby Stockholm barge at Portland Port. But my legal team and I believe that it does, and that’s what we’re asking the judge to decide.

A final hearing will be taking place from 27-29 February 2024 at the Royal Courts of Justice (the High Court) in London.

What will happen at the hearing?

This will be a ‘rolled-up’ hearing. First (like last time), the judge will decide if we can have permission to proceed to a full judicial review. If we can’t, we’ll go home at that point. If we can, we’ll move straight into a full hearing.

Overshadowed by tragedy

The death of a man on the Bibby Stockholm this week has been inexpressibly tragic, and our community is shocked and saddened. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and all those affected by his sad loss.

This tragedy underlines the importance of why we’re doing this. The barge must be stopped. The Bibby Stockholm is wholly unsuitable as housing for asylum-seekers. It was designed to accommodate up to 222 people for short periods whilst working, yet the government intends to pack 506 asylum-seekers and 40 staff on board. There are currently around 350 people on the barge.  

I’ve spoken to many of the barge's residents and they describe it as overcrowded, claustrophobic, and more like a prison than a home. This is compounded by having to go through airport-style security and opening up their coats to be searched by guards with security wands every time they enter or leave the barge, which they find degrading and intimidating.

My team and how YOU can help

I firmly believe that locating the Bibby Stockholm at Portland Port breaches planning regulations. I am more determined than ever, with the help of my legal team, to pursue Dorset Council to enforce planning law so that the Bibby Stockholm can be consigned to the dustbin of history. That team is made up of solicitors at Deighton Pierce Glynn, who have instructed several barristers. These are Alex Goodman KC and Alex Shattock of Landmark Chambers, and Penelope Nevill and Fiona Petersen of Twenty Essex Chambers.

If, like me, you believe the barge is the wrong thing for Portland, for asylum-seekers and for Britain, please continue to support my claim by donating safely here via CrowdJustice. Every pound is gratefully received and will be put to good use in fighting this claim.

Update 5

Carralyn Parkes

Oct. 18, 2023

All hope is not lost! But we must keep fundraising

Dear all,

I wanted to thank all of you for your solidarity and support throughout this important case. It has taken a team effort to get this far, and I couldn't have done this without all your amazing support and solidarity.

Our claim against the Home Office
Despite our efforts at the permission hearing on 10 October, it was disappointing that the court decided not to allow the case to proceed against the home secretary. The judge observed that the home secretary was not the right defendant at this stage, because responsibility for planning objections is on local authorities. This meant that the case couldn’t proceed against the home secretary, and a key point is that Dorset Council has had the option to take enforcement action from the very beginning – but hasn’t done so.

Most of us have been extremely concerned and frustrated over the continued reluctance of Dorset Council to take enforcement action against the home secretary over her use of the barge. The lack of action has allowed her to circumvent the proper planning process to push through its plan to house asylum-seekers on the Bibby Stockholm. This has included placing and developing the barge, and moving asylum-seekers on and off – all without applying for planning permission. The home secretary will  begin moving asylum seekers back onto the barge imminently.

A fresh legal claim – against Dorset Council
I’ve been very reluctant to take my local authority to court. Although I’m acting as a private individual, I’m also an elected town councillor so I recognise the difficult position that the home secretary has put Dorset Council in. However, I strongly disagree with Dorset Council’s ongoing position that it doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Bibby Stockholm. I feel very strongly that the decision to accommodate people in this way in Portland has been imposed upon us, 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.

So after careful thought, I issued a further application for a judicial review on 12 October 2023, to challenge Dorset Council in the High Court over its ongoing stance that it has no planning jurisdiction over the Bibby Stockholm. I’m asking the High Court to consider whether Dorset Council made a legal error in deciding it cannot take planning enforcement action.

Following the judge’s decision in my claim against the Home Office, I was left with no option but to issue this new claim against Dorset Council. 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 the relevant regulations are complied with. This is therefore a significant and important planning case with wider implications for the powers of local authorities.

We need to keep fundraising!
We need to come together more than ever – to keep up momentum and defeat these plans, I need your help. I’m continuing to crowdfund to cover my legal costs as well as the possibility that costs could be awarded against me.

To issue these claims, I must pay court fees and for expert barristers to draft the legal arguments. There will likely be at least one more hearing to attend, so we need to ensure that we’ve refined our legal arguments and our evidence.

You will have seen Dorset Council’s public statements indicating they intend to put up a fight. So I need all the support I can get. And I must stress that it's my fundraising that pays for the legal action, not taxpayers.

If you believe the barge is the wrong thing for Portland, the wrong thing for vulnerable asylum-seekers and the wrong thing for Britain, please continue to support my claim against Dorset Council via CrowdJustice. Every pound is gratefully received and will be put to good use.

Thank you as always!

Update 4

Carralyn Parkes

Sept. 27, 2023

WE’VE REACHED £25,000! THANK YOU

My fundraiser has now reached its ‘stretch’ target of £25,000, thanks to the amazing support of over 900 people joining in solidarity against the Bibby Stockholm barge being used as asylum accommodation. 

I want to thank each and every one of you who have given what you can. It really means a lot to me, to my legal team, and to the campaigners working on this issue that you’re willing to stand with us and support us. 

I’m particularly grateful to a large donation from Dame Vanessa Redgrave, a longstanding activist and defender of refugee rights, who got us across the £25,000 line. But please know that every donation, large or small, and every single comment of support, have been incredibly heartening and uplifting. Talk about people power!

What's next?

The next hurdle is the ‘permission hearing’ at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 10 October 2023. The judge will decide whether our case is ‘arguable’ and whether it should therefore proceed to a judicial review. The judge will also decide whether my costs should be capped (ie to a maximum and no higher) under the Aarhus Convention. 

So for now, we're not increasing our fundraising target. 

However, if we get that permission for a judicial review in court on 10 October 2023, there will be a lot more work to be done very urgently – as the court has already decided to expedite this important case. 

We’ll post another update to let you know what happens at the hearing – watch this space!

The Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London

Update 3

Carralyn Parkes

Sept. 11, 2023

I’ve formally applied for a judicial review of the use of the Bibby Stockholm

On Friday 8 September, I formally asked the High Court to declare that the Home Office’s decision to use the Bibby Stockholm barge as asylum accommodation constitutes ‘development’ for the purposes of planning law. This would mean that planning permission should have been applied for. And, since it wasn’t, I’m claiming that this is a potential breach of planning control and could be subject to enforcement by Dorset Council. 

This is a new step, because previously my updates have been about pre-action correspondence. This is now the action!

Avoidance of planning permission 

I’m suggesting that the Home Office is trying to get round normal planning rules by using a barge as an asylum accommodation site – because those rules would certainly apply if the site was on land. Among other things, bypassing these planning rules means that:

  • local residents have great difficulty in raising objections through the normal route, which would be Dorset Council. This is why I’m making my own objection through the court.
  • the Home Office is avoiding the usual standard legal protections such as the laws around overcrowding. We already know that the Home Office plans to put 506 asylum-seekers and 40 staff on a barge built for 222 residents.

Environmental impact assessment 

Part of my claim is that the Home Office hasn’t complied with its environmental impact assessment duties. This type of screening is designed to find out whether a proposed project is likely to have significant effects on the environment. It should usually happen at an early stage in the design of the project.

The Home Office conducted an inadequate appraisal, and at a late stage – only after asylum-seekers had already been moved onto the barge. This was several months after the Home Office declared its intention to use the barge.

The assessment also hasn’t considered the impact of long-term use of the barge. This is important because the Home Office has said that the barge would initially be used for 18 months, but could then be used indefinitely. The screening also failed to look at the impacts on people’s health (and we now know that Legionella was discovered on the very day the first asylum-seekers arrived on the Bibby Stockholm).

The assessment is also based on several mistaken assumptions – including that rooms won’t be shared (in fact, most are twins, some are for 4 people, and some are for 6), and assuming that overcrowding legislation would apply.

Public-sector equality duty 

In my claim, I’m also arguing that the Home Office hasn’t complied with its public-sector equality duty (under the Equality Act 2010). The equality impact assessment was only done a few days before asylum-seekers went on board – and it’s woefully inadequate. It fails to consider the impact of the barge in drawing in far-right extremism, or the equality impact of segregating rather than integrating asylum seekers.

Summary

This is why I’m taking a stand against the Home Office’s attempts to get around important planning rules and protections – rules which I’d have to adhere to if I wanted to do something much more minor at my own home. I’m asking the High Court to rule that the Home Office should follow the proper procedures, and that local people and authorities should be given the opportunity to have their say.

Next steps

The Home Office, Dorset Council and Portland Port can now file their ‘summary grounds of defence’, the deadline being around 4 October. Then the court will make a ‘permission decision’ as to whether my claim is arguable and should proceed to a full hearing.

Because this is a significant planning claim, we’re asking for this decision to be expedited and for a final hearing to be listed faster than usual. A lot will depend on whether the court grants that accelerated timing and in what form (as there are several options).

Can you support my claim?

I’m continuing to crowdfund to cover my legal costs as well as the possibility that costs could be awarded against me. If you believe the barge is the wrong thing for Portland, the wrong thing for vulnerable asylum-seekers and the wrong thing for Britain, please consider supporting my claim via CrowdJustice. Every pound is gratefully received!

Update 2

Carralyn Parkes

Aug. 21, 2023

New defendant(s) in our claim – and new legal arguments

We’re adding extra arguments to our legal claim, and adding at least one new defendant – perhaps even Dorset Council, too. And we're still fundraising!

The day the first asylum-seekers arrived on the Bibby Stockholm barge was, coincidentally, the day that my legal team sent a letter to the Home Office to declare our intention of making a legal challenge. This was called a ‘pre-action protocol’ (PAP) letter. The Home Office's deadline for responding to that letter was 21 August 2023.

In the meantime…

An extra defendant? 

We’ve informed Dorset Council that if they continue to maintain that they have no power to enforce planning rules over the barge, we may change our claim to include Dorset Council as a co-defendant along with the Home Office. This means we’d be taking them to court, too.

A further argument – and a further defendant

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) controls marine licensing. A marine licence is needed if you want to construct, alter or improve any works in the sea, or over the sea, or on or under the sea bed. It’s a bit like planning permission on land, but for the sea. Many coastal developments require both planning permission and a marine licence.

Whenever the MMO grants a marine licence, it needs to consider the protection of the environment and of human health. You will have seen that the Bibby Stockholm has already had to be evacuated due to very serious public health concerns, just 4.5 days after the first asylum-seekers went on board.

A screening for environmental impacts also has to be done before any licence can be issued by the MMO. We think the Home Office has not applied for a marine licence for the Bibby Stockholm.

This is just one more way in which the Home Office is circumventing and failing to adhere to the normal regulations and processes that govern our country.

So we’ve sent another letter, this time adding the MMO as a defendant in our claim. We’re asking the MMO to issue an enforcement notice against the barge, requiring that its use is ceased until and unless a licence is obtained and environmental screening completed. We’ve asked them to respond to us by 30 August.

What does this mean for our costs?

Adding one or two additional defendants means more thought, research and drafting. When you’re planning to go to court, you have to be as sure as you can be that you’ve refined your arguments, checked what’s happened in similar cases in the past, and are ready to give your case its best shot.

And that’s only possible through your generous support, so thank you for your donations so far. But we still have at least £7,000 more to raise, so can you help us spread the word? You could...

  • Email 5 of your friends asking them to consider donating
  • Post a link to Facebook asking your friends to donate 
  • Tweet the link to our CrowdJustice page.
Update 1

Carralyn Parkes

Aug. 18, 2023

We met our first milestone in just under a week

We've achieved the first incredible milestone in our legal challenge – we reached our minimum crowdfunding target, and are well on our way to our £25,000 goal

Thanks to you and around 700 others like you, all over the country, we did it in just under a week. We needed to achieve the entire amount in order to be able to unlock any of it, so this is a huge relief.

Of course, we know that the costs will exceed £15,000 so we continue to fundraise beyond that amount. For now, we’ve set a ‘stretch’ target of £25,000. Anything raised after the initial £15,000 can be claimed regardless of whether we meet the full stretch target or not.

  • If we raise more than we need, we’ll use the money support other legal cases arising from the Bibby Stockholm or similar cases relating to asylum-seekers and accommodation
  • If we need more than £25,000, we’ll put the target up again and cross our fingers!

How will the money be used?

At least £5,000 of what we’ve raised is set aside to protect me in the event that we lose our case and I have to pay the Home Office’s legal fees, which I cannot afford. We will be asking the court to cap those costs at £5,000.

We have to pay the court-case issue fee, and almost double that again every time we make an application. If we get permission to proceed, it’s another fee of £770 for the final hearing. Then there will be costs and expenses along the way. And so it goes on.

My sizeable legal team spans three organisations. They really are exceptional and so far they’ve been powered mostly by their own concern for the case. But to every worker his or her due, so I’d like to make sure there are funds to cover the legal research, drafting and advocacy that they are doing on my behalf, particularly as my solicitors are a human-rights focused, legal-aid firm.

Without the sharpest legal minds, we simply wouldn’t have a chance of winning against the Home Office.

Thank you again!

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