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court ref no: CO/46/95 ...
court ref no: CO/46/95

A lone fisherman whose pollution fears were all that stood in the way of a £20m redevelopment of Barry docks today had his case thrown out by a London high court judge.

By dismissing 20-year-old Philip James's case, Mr Justice Popplewell opened the way for disposal of large quantities of contaminated soil into two disused docks on the waterfront at Barry.

The judge upheld Vale of Glamorgan BC's decision to grant a waste disposal licence which was a vital part of the redevelopment which it is hoped will generate 2,000 jobs.

The council's leader, Shaun Stringer, said outside court: 'The council had gone to great lengths to ensure that the decision taken was the correct one.

'Numerous tests were undertaken as well as an in-depth consultation exercise with all relevant organisations with the decision to grant the licence being made by all members of the council.

'We have always said that this was the right decision and now that the court has come out in favour of the authority, I hope that Associated British Ports (ABP) can at long last get on with the job of redeveloping the docks which well be to the benefit of all'.

Mr Justice Popplewell said Mr James, of Broad Street, was a 'concerned citizen' who lived close by the waterfront and feared that the dumping of contaminated soil into the two disused Graving Docks could contaminate ground-water.

He had contacted solicitors after somebody handed him a leaflet on behalf of Barry Friends of the Earth outside Barry College where Mr James is a part-time student, added the judge.

The court heard the depositing of 'controlled waste' into the redundant docks was an 'essential' part of the £20m residential, retail and leisure redevelopment.

The West Pond area's soil was contaminated with toxic mercury, asbestos, and cadmium as a result of its past industrial use and it had to be got rid of before building work could start.

The judge said ABP planned to pump dry Graving No 1 and No 2 Docks and line them with an impermeable synthetic membrane, before pumping them full of waste.

Vale of Glamorgan BC granted ABP a waste disposal licence in October last year, and it was that decision which Mr James challenged today.

Mr James claimed the council had not carried out stringent enough investigations into the long-term effects of the dumping before granting the licence.

The council was accused of breaching EU groundwater pollution regulations and was said to have relied on the investigations of the National Rivers Authority which were themselves claimed to be flawed.

A pollution expert for Mr James had been 'highly critical' of the dumping scheme, said the judge.

He feared that the docks' synthetic linings had a limited life of perhaps 20-25 years whereas the contaminants were 'likely to be there forever'.

Monitoring of the dumping site would only go on for six to ten years and, thereafter, pollutants might seep into the groundwater unchecked, he claimed.

The proposed system for pumping water outof the docks was said to be 'highly suspect'.

But Mr Justice Popplewell said the council had equally strong opinions in favour of the scheme and it was not his role to 'enter into an evaluation of the respective views'.

The council had been entitled to rely on the views of the National Rivers Authority and the judge said he could find nothing perverse in its decision to grant a waste disposal licence.

'In this particular case having reviewed the evidence available to the council at the time they made their decision and the material now before me I am satisfied that any other decision would be irrational.

'I find nothing to suggest that six-10 years is the maximum time when it is envisaged that monitoring will need to continue.'

The judge said ABP's claim that it would lose £200,000 if Mr James won his case was an 'over-estimate'.

But he added: 'I am satisfied that an appreciable amount of money will have been wasted if Mr James's application succeeds.'

The judge said there had been 'undue delay' in Mr James bringing his case to court, although that had not caused any substantial hardship or prejudice to ABP.

However, if Mr James were to win his case, there would be an impact on 'good administration' and the judge said he would have refused him Judicial Review on that ground alone.

Mr James had his case dismissed and was ordered to pay the borough council's legal costs.

But, as he was legally aided, the costs order is unlikely to be enforced against him. Associated British Ports were left to pay their own legal costs bills.

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