The chairman of CPRE Kent’s Dover committee has expressed his disappointment over the approval of plans to dredge some three million tonnes of aggregate from the Goodwin Sands.
Derek Wanstall said: “We’re fully behind everyone who objected to this scheme. The truth is no one knows the effect any altered drift caused by the dredging will have on our coastline and, of course, on the Sands themselves.”
The dredging application was made in 2016 by Dover Harbour Board, which intends to use the sand for building work at its Western Docks.
The proposal sparked a storm of protest, including a 12,000-name petition handed to 10 Downing Street, while there were three periods of public consultation.
Nevertheless, on Thursday last week (Thursday, July 26), the Marine Management Organisation granted the harbour board its licence to dredge a stretch of the Goodwins seabed, which is owned by the Crown Estate.
The organisation’s chief executive officer, John Tuckett, said the licence was granted because “sufficient measures were proposed to protect the marine environment, prevent interference with legitimate users of the seas and mitigate impacts to any other relevant matters”.
Much of the upset was due to the Sands’ role as the resting place for airmen killed during the Battle of Britain, along with possibly thousands of seamen from shipwrecks.
David Brocklehurst, chairman of the Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge, was reported by the BBC as saying that some 60 aircraft had crashed during four months of 1940 at the Sands, with the loss of at least 74 airmen.
“There are thousands of airmen and seamen there, whose remains will be sucked up, and they are unlikely to ever be identified with this method [of dredging]… it’s dishonourable and disgusting,” he is reported as saying.
“It just shows a complete lack of understanding – how would they feel if it was their grandfather, or uncle?”
The Goodwins – which comprise 10 miles of sandbanks some six miles off Deal – also form a valuable wildlife habitat.
The petition Goodwin Sands SOS – Stop the Dredge!, which has more than 15,600 signatures, says:
“The Goodwins are home to a colony of 500 grey and harbour seals. They are also the spawning and nursery grounds of a variety of fish and shellfish, with many shipwrecks providing a semi-natural habitat.
“The colony of seals use areas adjacent to the proposed dredging zone as their ‘haul out’ sites, ie where they rest on land at low tide.
“The noise and vibration from the huge dredgers will disturb them in their natural habitat; there is also the possibility of them being injured by collision with the dredgers and propellers as they are naturally inquisitive creatures.”
The petition also highlights potential problems for the Kent coastline: “Coastal flooding along the east Kent coast is a continual problem and one which would be exacerbated by dredging the Goodwin Sands due to lowering the level and changing the topography (shape) of the seabed.
“The sandbanks absorb the energy from the huge rolling waves coming in from the North Sea which would otherwise be crashing straight onto the Kent coast with destructive results.”
Stephen Eades, co-ordinator of national marine conservation organisation Marinet, said of the decision: “It will likely cause severe damage to the marine life and the aircraft remains. This is a decision which respects neither of these two things.
“The DHB could easily go elsewhere for the sand, but they have allowed commercial interests to rule.”
The MMO decision is all the more disturbing because the dredging area falls within a site proposed by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) as a Marine Conservation Zone.
The dredging is due to take place from September 2019 to September 2020.
Campaigners have vowed to appeal against the MMO decision; they have already taken legal advice and stated their intention to launch a CrowdFunding campaign.
For more on this and to sign the petition, which is still live, visit https://goodwinsandssos.org/
Wednesday, August 1, 2018