Judge allows judicial review of grant of amended dredging license for materials from nuclear power plant construction site

An umbrella organisation, acting for environmental groups, has obtained permission for a judicial review of the decision of the Marine Management Organization (MMO) to grant an amended license for the deposit of 800,000 tonnes of sludge and sediments dredged from the Severn Estuary.


Tarian Hafren argues that the granting of the dredging license – needed to make way for a water cooling system to be built at Hinkley Point C nuclear power station near Bridgwater in Somerset – is illegal.

The amended license allows NNB Generation Company Ltd (HPC) to deposit the dredged material in the Severn Estuary Marine Protected Area close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Portbury Wharf Salt Marsh, on the Portishead dump site.

Tarian Hafren said the dredging and dumping sites both fall within the Severn Estuary Special Area of ​​Conservation and the OSPAR Marine Protected Area.

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The applicant contests the modification of the dredging permit for the following reasons:

  • The MMO did not have the legal power to amend the dredging license under section 72 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to include the dumping.
  • The MMO did not provide sufficient reasons to amend the license
  • The MMO has not carried out a full and adequate assessment of the habitats of the Severn Estuary Special Area of ​​Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest to consider the potential impact of dredging on marine life.
  • MMO failed to comply with Section 22 of the Waste Regulations and in doing so ignored a less harmful method of waste disposal
  • The MMO breached the Water Framework Directive by treating persistently poor water quality as complying with those standards

Madam Justice Lang ruled in the Planning Court that Tarian Hafren’s grounds for judicial review were arguable and the claim will now be heard at a hearing in 2022.

Cian Ciaran for Tarian Hafren Severn Shield Cyf said: ‘The Welsh National Marine Plan does not accept any spills into the Welsh half of the estuary, but the Welsh authorities have not pressured MMO to comply du English side. As Geiger Bay, we established in court in 2018 that the Welsh authorities were wrong to allow dumping near Cardiff. Now let’s force the MMO to respect the necessary protection status for both fish stocks and wildlife.

“The Hinkley Report to the Prime Minister of Wales advised using alternative terrestrial cooling systems, but the Welsh Government did not insist on the MMO. Our legal action is hopefully the first step in forcing the MMO to phase out this cooling water system to end the massive slaughter of fish being sucked in with seawater.”

Tarian Hafren is represented by the law firm Leigh Day. Solicitor Rowan Smith said: ‘Our client was clear from the outset that the MMO had no legal authority to authorize the discharge of mud from Hinkley Point C into the Severn Estuary in the manner in which it did it. The Court’s decision justifies why this case is being brought. Our client’s objectives are to maintain the special conservation status of the marine protected area.

The MMO has been approached for comment.