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In my opinion: Whitsand Bay needs protection from this dumping

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

By David Peake

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The current routine maintenance licence issued to HMNB Devonport expires in January 2014. Boskalis Westminster Ltd, on behalf of the Naval Base, has recently applied to the Marine Management Organisation to renew for a further two years this licence. Under the terms of the licence, up to many hundreds of thousands of tons of dredged material will be dredged from areas of the dockyard port of Plymouth. This material is contaminated with elevated levels of PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). The intended place of disposal, as always, is in Whitsand Bay. This area of seabed is referred to, as a Licensed Disposal Site. However following numerous requests, the Regulator MMO cannot produce any written licence, documents or leases. Whitsand Bay has historically been used for about 100 years and is the easiest and cheapest option for the authorities to use for disposals.

Following many years of surveys, sampling and observations it cannot be scientifically denied that the continuing, year in and year out, of disposals are not having a negative impact particularly inshore of the site along the beaches and shallow reefs. Prof Elliott stated that this was environmentally acceptable. The question must be 'acceptable to whom, the people who use Whitsand Bay for leisure, pleasure and work?' It certainly is not acceptable to the seabed habitat and all its marine life.

Nearly three years ago, at a public meeting, Sheryll Murray the MP for SE Cornwall set up a group/ committee to regularly meet with the Regulator MMO and other stakeholders to discuss, debate and consult the issues regarding the disposals. Initially there was a consensus to 'actively seek alternatives to dumping in Whitsand Bay'.

This group is no longer formed. Local residents felt it necessary to resign following a 'stalemate' with the authorities. The opinion was that these Authorities were continually 'passing the buck' one to another with no momentum to seek those alternatives.

The recent announcement of the Whitsand and Looe Bay as a Marine Conservation Zone is a step in the right direction to protect this environment. The boundaries of the disposal areas and the MCZ are extremely close and now is the time for the Regulator MMO and stakeholders to take this into account, find an alternative and immediately stop dumping in the beautiful Whitsand Bay.

In the licence application process the applicant requests to dispose into the bay. Surely it is time now for the MoD and The Queen's HarbourMaster to realise that this is 2013 and not 1913? They should be protecting the seas, coast, beaches and reefs, not continually polluting, contaminating and degrading them.

Should you wish to object please e-mail: sam.kelly@marinemanagement.org.uk or write to MMO, Lancaster House, Hampshire Court, Newcastle on Tyne, NE4 7RH.

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