DORSET Council could be taken to the High Court by Portland Mayor Carralyn Parkes in a second judicial review claim over the housing of asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge.

A judicial review claim has been issued challenging the ongoing decision by Dorset Council that it has no planning jurisdiction over the asylum seeker barge in Portland Harbour.

Asylum seekers are due to go back on the barge later this week. They were evacuated off the vessel in the summer after legionella bacteria was found in the water supply.

READ MORE: Asylum seekers fear move back to Portland 'prison' barge

Mrs Parkes is seeking a determination by the court that Dorset Council was incorrect in determining it could not take planning enforcement against the use of the barge connected to a pier and access road at Portland Port.

She will argue the alleged "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 at Portland, circumventing the proper planning process.

The mayor and her legal team at Deighton Pierce Glynn issued previous proceedings against the Home Secretary in respect of the use of the barge to accommodate asylum seekers.

Permission was refused on October 11 by Mr Justice Holgate following a permission hearing in which he suggested that the Home Secretary was not the correct target for the claim, seemingly putting responsibility for planning objections solely on local authorities.

Lawyers representing Mrs Parkes have said she was left with "no option" but to take Dorset Council to the High Court.

A spokesperson for Deighton Pierce Glynn said: "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." 

Carralyn Parkes 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 at 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.

"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.”

Council hits back

Dorset Council has hit back at the legal proceedings, saying it stands by its decision in July that the barge is outside of its planning jurisdiction.

The council says Mrs Parkes is trying to "reargue materially the same unarguable points" used in the previous case against the Home Office.

The council has also said the costs of defending the claim will incur "further costs to local taxpayer's money".

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: “Dorset Council is very disappointed at Mrs Parkes’ decision to issue judicial review proceedings claim against the council.   

“Mrs Parkes will be aware that, after much consideration and having taken advice from King’s Counsel, Dorset Council decided it was not appropriate to use public funds to actively pursue legal action against the Home Secretary regarding the siting of the Bibby Stockholm at Portland Port.   

“The council continues to stand by the decision it made in July this year that the Bibby Stockholm is outside of its planning jurisdiction and so does not have planning enforcement powers.  

“The arguments that Mrs Parkes is making to dispute this position are materially the same as the ones put before the High Court earlier this week as part of her claim against the Home Secretary.

"Mr Justice Holgate found those arguments to be unarguable.

"Mrs Parkes is now attempting to reargue materially the same unarguable points, but replacing the Home Secretary with Dorset Council as the Defendant.   

“The council has already been required to incur legal costs by participating in Mrs Parkes’ claim against the Home Secretary.

"Mrs Parkes’ decision to pursue materially the same arguments against the council will simply force the council to incur further costs to local taxpayer’s money – funds which should be used to deliver services for the people of Dorset.  

“The council does not doubt that Mrs Parkes is acting with good intentions and out of concern for those to be accommodated on the Bibby Stockholm.

"As publicly stated, the council shares many of those concerns. Mrs Parkes’ cause is not served, however, by pursuing points against the council which the court has already found to be unarguable. 

“In his judgement on Wednesday this week Mr Justice Holgate invited Mrs Parkes to undergo a process of “mature reflection” before issuing any fresh claim against the Council. Just two days later, however, Mrs Parkes has done just that.

"The council invites Mrs Parkes to reconsider her position, and allow the council to direct its efforts and resources towards delivering for the people of Dorset.”