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Port of Dover warns stopping dredging of Goodwin Sands for Western Docks project will cost the town £500m

PUBLISHED: 16:10 07 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:10 07 August 2017

Goodwin Sands

Goodwin Sands

Archant

Campaigners working to save the 10-mile sandbank have dismissed the claim as “completely unfounded”

Dover could lose half a billion pounds in jobs, tourism and business if the port can’t win permission to relocate a cargo area to a new terminal at the Western Docks, bosses claim.

To carry out the building works, which chiefs say will create some 600 local jobs, the port needs to dredge some of the world famous Goodwin Sands.

This 10-mile sandbank several miles off the Deal coast has claimed 2,000 vessels and is home to basking seals, and the occasional bizarre cricket match.

But the Save our Sands campaign is blocking this particular regeneration work and wants the area designated a Marine Conservation Zone.

In a new campaign called Deliver for Dover, the port says the works are vital, and without the new cargo terminal, business will be hit the tune of £500 million.

It needs to use a “tiny amount” of the Sands to complete the Western Docks revival, and calls the opposition a “misleading Deal-based protest”.

The campaigners warn that the Sands will be obliterated by dredgers - a claim the port has dismissed.

The docks need a marine licence to carry out the works on the Sands, but SoS has been efficient in disrupting that application.

Port spokesman Antony Greenwood told us: “We have run in to trouble obtaining the marine licence and this has been going on for the past 18 months.

“We are coming to the third stage of consultation, and because so much opposition has built up with misleading information we are going out to the public saying we want your support because without the marine licence we won’t be able to deliver all the good stuff we have promised you. That is it in a nutshell.”

Explaining the impact on the Sands, he added: “To put this in perspective, it is 0.22 per cent of the total sands. I don’t know why the opponents are saying it is much more than this.

“We have always told them how much we are going to take since day one.

“It is 2.5 million cubic metres which will leave 99.78 per cent of the sands untouched.

“I can’t give a reason why officially that they are saying it is more than that - I assume it is just to big-up their campaign. It is such a small amount.”

The sand and gravel will be used in both construction and reclamation works, including more space for ferry movements, plus shops, bars and a new marina.

Opponents say the material should come from somewhere else, but Dover said it has already examined 16 other possible sites and all had to be rejected on grounds of cost, emissions and pollution increases.

Joanna Thomson, of the SoS coordinators said: “The claim that Dovorians are set to lose half a billion pounds if they can’t dredge the Goodwins is completely unfounded and has no substance.

“The development is not reliant on specifically dredging the Goodwins for aggregate.

“There are plenty of alternative commercial dredging sites in the East English Channel and the Thames Estuary that are within the industry norm in terms of distance from dredge site to wharf. Hastings to Dover is about 40 nautical miles, whilst Hastings to Tilbury for example is 70 nautical miles.

“Dover Harbour Board is scaremongering and as David Brocklehurst from Kent Battle of Britain Museum also said they are blackmailing everyone with the threat of loss of jobs and regeneration.

“The reality is that they have not built a contingency plan into their development budget and their plans are now unravelling.”

Save Our Sands has recently received the backing of actors Mark Rylance, born in Ashford, and Miriam Margolyes, who has a home in St Margaret’s, plus author Deborah Moggach.

Ms Thomson added: “The campaign is reacting to a democratic process. The dredging application involves public consultations; the public have been consulted and many have objected. Just because the harbour board doesn’t like what they hear, it does not give them the right to make allegations that dredging elsewhere is going to cost the local economy £500m.

“The board’s Scoping Report of July 2016 stated that dredging elsewhere would add an extra £6 million to the bill. Having said that, a few pages further on this figure climbed to £20m. Either way, it’s a far cry from £500m.

“The final decision rests with the Marine Management Organisation.

“There is no ‘decision by’ date but we are about to embark on an unprecedented third 42-day public consultation period so a decision is unlikely to be made before the autumn. What we don’t know is when DHB need the aggregate by.

“Saying they want to take 0.22 per cent is like saying they want to take a pinch of salt from the whole world.

“The reality is they want to dredge 1.95m off the top surface of 3.9 sq km area of South Goodwins lying three miles off the shore from Deal and Kingsdown.”

The Harbour Board hit back at these claims, however, as a spokesman said: “1.95m is the maximum we can dredge.

“The small amount of aggregate in question will be from a very carefully and expertly selected site, where there are no known anomalies.

“The dredging itself will be a carefully controlled and observed process.

“Goodwin Sands are a designated dredge site and have been dredged before.

“They are actually located 4.2 miles from the Deal and Kingdsown coast.”

The Marine Management Organisation handles all marine activities around the UK.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke told us: “The Marine Management Organisation has dithered and delayed for far too long.

“They need to now get on and make a decision either the Harbour Board can dredge the Sands or not.

“It is very important they check carefully that certain guarantees are made that no war graves are disturbed and the marine environment is not damaged.

“They have had a long time to make their investigations and now is the time to get on and make their final decision.”

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