| Last November, in the face of strong public opposition, and objections from Natural England about the environmental implications of its proposals, Brett Aggregates withdrew an application to Kent County Council for a “Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development (CLOPUD) for the erection of a sand and gravel washing plant” at the Port of Ramsgate. |
The application to extend the scope and scale of Brett’s activities at Ramsgate Port was, in my opinion, linked to the £200million expansion of Dover Harbour which is set to begin very soon.
It was proposed by the Dover Harbour Board (DHB) that it would obtain much of the building material required for this massive construction project by dredging 2.5 million cubic metres of aggregates from the Goodwin Sands. The dredging operations, if approved and licensed by the Government’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO), will take place 24/7 over a 3 year period. By anyone’s standards this is a very large aggregate dredging operation which will provide those within the industry with an opportunity of securing very lucrative contracts.
Having a sizeable operational base at Ramsgate Port, which is close to both the Goodwin Sands and Dover Harbour, and which could be used to process the dredged aggregate, would clearly place Brett in a very advantageous position to win aggregate dredging and processing contracts with DHB. As would the fact that Brett also has a successful marine dredging subsidiary which owns several large sea-going dredgers. It’s clear to me that Brett’s expansion plans at Ramsgate Port are related to DHB’s huge expansion plans and the profits the company could expect to make from any contracts to deliver this work.
But why gamble your cash and waste valuable time and resources in preparing for a business opportunity which is not guaranteed? Because it’s far from certain that Dover Harbour Board will be granted a dredging licence for the Goodwin Sands by the MMO. And this is precisely why I believe Brett withdrew their expansion plans last year and why the company is now biding its time until the future is clearer.
Well following a discussion with the MMO’s Goodwin Sands Case Officer, and in the words of one of my favourite reggae artists, Johnny Nash, “I can see clearly now” about the decision making process and the timescale for approving, or rejecting, DHB’s dredging licence and it goes like this.
Earlier this year the MMO requested DHB to provide it with further information about how it plans to conduct the proposed dredging operations. DHB is set to provide this information by the end of August. On receipt, the information will be published on the MMO website. This will be followed by a third and final public consultation exercise relating to the new information and whether a dredging licence should be granted to DHB. The consultation process will take six weeks and then the MMO will collate and consider the responses before making its final decision.
The public consultation process will generate a very large response because many people, myself included, are opposed to the dredging plans. The consultation will raise some very important issues about the impact of large-scale dredging on the habitat provided by the Goodwin Sands and the threat to sea life this might pose. There are also concerns that dredging the Goodwin Sands may have an impact on tidal flow and coastal erosion. Furthermore many people are worried about the impact of dredging upon the archaeology of the Goodwin Sands which is reputed to be the site of at least 2,000 shipwrecks and countless crashed aircraft from WorldWar2. The sands are last resting place of literally thousands of mariners and aircrew. Just this week actor, Mark Rylance, who stars in the new blockbusting film, Dunkirk, has denounced plans to dredge the Sands as “disrespectful and insulting” to those who perished there during the war.
The complex and technical, aspects of the new information and the sheer volume of responses to the final public consultation mean that a decision on whether to grant DHB a dredging licence is unlikely to be made until the end of this year, or possibly in the new year. This gives Brett several months to evaluate the chances of a licence being awarded to DHB and whether or not to dust down its plans to expand its activities at Ramsgate Port.
My guess is that because the DHB and MMO are both Government bodies and because the Government is backing DHB’s expansion plans, the chance of a dredging licence being granted is pretty high. This means that the people of Ramsgate need to be preparing for a long, tough, drawn out battle to fight-off Brett’s plans and prevent the port and seafront from becoming a heavily industrialised and potentially polluting area. This is something that most people don’t want.