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Port of Dover abandons plans to dredge Goodwin Sands

Posted on October 18, 2022

A long row over whether world famous shifting sands should be dredged has been neutralised.

Bosses at the Port of Dover have decided not to carry out the work on the Goodwin Sands, off Deal.

The initial plan caused widespread protest from those fearing the dredging would disturb war graves in the area.

But today the port authority said the licence for the work was due to expire and would not be extended and aggregate from elsewhere.

A statement from managers Dover Harbour Board today (Friday) said: “The Port has decided to move its focus away from the Goodwin Sands as the preferred aggregate source and is now preparing to go through a full procurement process in order to select the alternative.”

The row over dredging has dragged on since 2016 when the port authority that January announced it wanted aggregate from the Sands for its flagship £250 million redevelopment, the Dover Western Docks Revival.

Leading opponents, the pressure group Goodwin Sands SOS (Save Our Sands) argued the site should be protected as it potentially contain dozens of aircraft and airmen from the Battle of Britain and major shipwrecks.

It also supports sea life including colonies of seals.

A licence for port managers Dover Harbour Board to dredge the Sands was granted by the Government’s Marine Management Organisation in July 2018.

GSSOS followed on with a Judicial Review in the High Court in London in June 2019 but the court rejected its case three months later.

The statement by the Port of Dover, in further detail, says: ” Whilst the case for using the Goodwin Sands remains unchanged, the approved licensing period for its use is soon to expire.

“Whilst it is possible to apply for an extension to the existing licence, the Port has recently been exploring whether the viability of alternative sources has altered.

“This is in order to see if a way forward can be found that delivers for the Port what it needs whilst at the same time allaying certain community concerns that have existed for a period of time over the use of Goodwin Sands.

“Following a full review of its requirements and alternative sources of material that could be available following recent changes in the supply chain, the Port is confident that it can now find another option that would also be cost neutral.

“The Port is keen to find an outcome that benefits all stakeholders.”

Doug Bannister, the authority’s chief executive, added: “This is a win for us all.

“It enables us to move forward with confidence in developing land for new local employment opportunities at a time when such opportunities are greatly needed and helps unify our community by removing an issue that has, in places, divided opinion.”

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke, who had also wanted to protect the Sands, said: “I remain fully behind the Port and its excellent ambitions for development, but I have also held concerns about the proposed dredging of the Goodwin Sands.

“I am delighted that the Port of Dover has listened to those who held concerns within our community.

“And that it has been active in finding a way forward that works to both promote and secure jobs and investment, while also respecting and preserving the special marine environment and habitat of the Goodwin Sands.

“It is an excellent outcome and I pay tribute to the work of the Port of Dover in finding the solution and to Goodwin Sands SOS team for raising this important issue.”

Joanna Thomson, campaign co-ordinator for GSSOS, said: “We are delighted by the Port of Dover’s decision not to dredge the Goodwin Sands but to find an alternative cost neutral source of aggregate for their Western Docks development.

“We appreciate the Port’s recognition that the intention to use the Goodwins for landfill divided opinion and welcome their desire for the Port and the community to work together to navigate future challenges and opportunities.

“We would like to thank our very many supporters who have encouraged and kept us going over the six and a half years of the SOS campaign. We know they will all be as delighted as we are by this announcement.

“We would also like to thank Mrs Elphicke for working tirelessly to negotiate this outcome, which benefits us all. Most importantly, the Port of Dover’s decision benefits the special and unique environment that is the Goodwin Sands.

“We wish the Port of Dover every success with the next stage of their redevelopment plan.”

The Goodwin Sands are a 10-mile (16km) sandbank from Ramsgate to St Margaret’s Bay.

More than 2,000 ships are believed to have been wrecked upon them over the centuries because they are close to the major shipping lanes through the Strait of Dover.


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