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Marine Management Organisation defeats legal challenge over licence decision

The Marine Management Organisation has defeated a High Court challenge brought over its decision to grant a marine licence relating to development in Brighton Marina.

In Powell v The Marine Management Organisation [2017] EWHC 1491 Mr Justice Holgate concluded that the MMO had fulfilled its obligation under section 69(1) of Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (the 2009 Act) "admirably".

A local resident had sought to challenge the way in which the MMO reached its decision in February 2016 to grant a marine licence for phase 2 of the development under section 71 of the 2009 Act.

The claimant’s legal team argued that the MMO had acted unlawfully in giving consent to the Brighton Marina Company Limited whose subsidiary, the Outer Harbour Development Company Partnership LLP, is carrying out the development.

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In particular they argued that the MMO had failed to consider whether phase 2 of the Brighton Marina development would amount to an actionable interference with public rights of navigation.

They also claimed that in instances where works unlawfully interfere with public rights of navigation the MMO is not empowered to issue a marine licence unless a harbour revision was also made, extinguishing public navigation rights or permitting interference with the same.

Mr Justice Holgate stated that “the claimant’s argument involves a fundamental misunderstanding of MCAA 2009, and of section 69(1) in particular” and he had reached the “firm conclusion” that it had to be rejected.

The judge also found that the MMO had gone to “substantial lengths to collect evidence on the relevant navigation issues” and “had consulted and re-consulted on the relatively narrow points raised by the claimant”.

Mr Justice Holgate said the MMO’s decision that the proposed activities would not interfere with navigation or safety of navigation in the entrance to the marina so as to justify refusing the application was a correct application of the relevant legislation.

The judge also said “there was no statutory requirement, or any need, to consider whether the effect on public rights of navigation would also be actionable”.

Mr Justice Holgate declined to grant permission to appeal.

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