Here’s what the “East Kent Growth Framework” says-
“The Port of Ramsgate is a vibrant Port with over £2 million investment in the refurbishment of Ro-Ro berths two and three, perimeter security improvements and maintenance dredging. The Port currently has capacity for 500,000 units (HGV vehicles -my insertion) per annum which could be doubled (to provide capacity to handle 1million HGVs per annum – my insertion) and provides significant value to transport and logistics in East Kent. The project is currently at detailed design stage with the Council leading on delivery of the first phase. The first phase is the construction of a new double-deck roro (roll on roll off) berth which will provide additional capacity for modern double deck loading and unloading which will increase resilience at the Port. This initial phase will also include capital dredging of the 1nautical mile long approach channel to the port entrance. This will widen the channel to provide the necessary clearance for larger vessels (up to200m in length) to be accommodated at the port.
The second phase of the project involves seaward
port expansion via land reclamation. The scheme will deliver at least 10 hectares of additional port side space and a long (250m) alongside quay facility allowing up to 2 freight vessels access at any one time”.
So who’s behind the East Kent Growth Framework? Well it was produced by an organisation called the East Kent Regeneration Board (EKRB) which, according to the Growth Framework document, “comprises the five East Kent local authorities and Kent County Council. Board representatives include the Leaders and Chief Executives from each of the five East Kent Districts, together with the Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Corporate Director of Growth, Transport and Environment”.
The EKRB is linked via membership arrangements, to county and regional level regeneration agencies including the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP) and the South East England Local Enterprise Partnership (SEELEP) both of which shortlist and approve submissions for Government grants to fund major infrastructure projects in Kent such as the 2015 grant towards the costs of constructing Thanet Parkway Station and, if the EKRP has its way, a grant to cover some of the costs of the proposed development at Ramsgate Port.
Yet for an organisation of such power and influence the EKRB is profoundly undemocratic. All of its meetings take place behind closed doors; it doesn’t publish minutes of its meetings or any other documents about its activities. It doesn’t have a website or direct means of contact. EKRB is a secretive, North Korean style, organisation which thinks it knows best and which doesn’t listen to, consult with, or take account of, the ideas and proposals of East Kent residents. This is an organisation lacking any form of transparency and accountability to those it purports to serve, and it’s arrogant, out of touch, attitude is clearly demonstrated in the case of Ramsgate Port.
In 2014 and 2015 Ramsgate residents made their views about the Port abundantly clear when they came out in their hundreds to attend public meetings opposing the O’Regan Group’s plans to develop concrete batching and waste wood recycling plants at the port. In 2016 hundreds of Ramsgate residents, once again, attended public meetings to campaign against and oppose Brett’s proposals to massively increase their aggregate processing operations at the port.
These campaigns demonstrate that a significant section of Ramsgate’s population doesn’t want a dirty, polluting, heavily industrialised port operating on their doorstep. Instead public opinion has, over recent years, shifted hugely in favour of transforming Ramsgate Port into a modern 21st century marina and seafront “village” with workshops, bars, cafes and restaurants.
A leisure focused development at Ramsgate Port will enhance and strengthen Thanet’s large and rapidly growing visitor economy which, in 2015, was estimated by independent researches to have generated £293million a year and supported over 7,000 jobs. Imagine how much more money could be generated by the transformation of the Port of Ramsgate into a modern 21st century marina and leisure quarter. Imagine how many more desperately needed jobs, training and business opportunities could be created as well. In my opinion, a leisure focused port area would create much more money and many times more jobs than an industrialised port ever could. But don’t take my word for it. Ramsgate’s MP Craig MacKinlay is a leading advocate of a leisure focused Port and I have included in this blog an interview I recently had with him on this issue which is well worth watching.
But instead of listening to the people of Ramsgate and the town’s MP and taking account of their alternative, modern, and environmentally friendly proposals, Thanet Council, the EKRB and KCC’s economic development boss, Councillor Mark Dance, appear determined to impose upon the town a large industrial port which most people don’t want. In fact the industrialisation of the Port of Ramsgate has been classified by the EKRB as a “strategically significant project” for the East Kent area which attracts “greatest priority for future investment”. This means that Thanet Council, the EKRB and KCC will be working tirelessly through the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP) and the South East England Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMP) to secure tens-of-million of pounds of Government funding to industrialise and expand Ramsgate Port.
By anybody’s standard this proposal is massive. It will result in a doubling of the Port’s size and its HGV handling capacity. But will it be worth the huge multi-million investment required to build it? I’ve argued for years that Ramsgate Port’s future as a sustainable commercial enterprise ended with the collapse of Trans Europa Ferries in 2013. Since then the port has rapidly declined with a huge drop in traffic and income. If fact the Port has made eye-watering operating losses of £17.6 million over the past 7 years; the equivalent of £126 for every, man, woman and child living in Thanet. And, despite TDCs fake news and rumourmongering, there is no sign whatsoever of a new ferry operator coming forward to replace Trans Europa.
Furthermore, work has now begun on the £225million, 3 year, expansion programme of Dover Harbour which will massively increase its capacity for handling passenger ferries and freight services. And, just 70 miles from Ramsgate, the state-of-the art London Gateway Port has recently opened a third deep water berth, with a fourth berth planned to follow shortly. London Gateway has also expanded its freight handling and logistics hub, making it one of the most modern and best connected ports in the country.
Accepting that head to head competition with maritime giants such as Dover and London Gateway ports would be suicidal, then the only financially viable option for commercial port services in Ramsgate would be to focus on developing businesses not hosted by its rivals, such as the expansion of aggregate and related concrete trades which O’Regan’s and Brett’s have already flagged up. Then there is the possible utilisation of the port as a waste transfer facility.
This option is not as fanciful as it sounds. In fact Ramsgate Port is, in many respects, an ideal candidate to host waste transfer operations. This is why. According to Kent County Council’s Waste Disposal Strategy 2017-2035 the closure of one of London’s last remaining waste land-fill sites in 2018 means that the amount of non-hazardous waste originating in London but treated in Kent will increase to an estimated 87,000 tonnes a year between 2018-2030. That’s the equivalent of 1,673 tonnes of waste being exported from London to Kent every week.
In addition, the Kent Minerals and Waste Local Plan 2013-30 notes that the use of landfill sites for waste disposal must be significantly reduced in the next 15-20 years and that energy from waste technologies such as incineration and anaerobic digestion must become the major tools in tackling waste produced in Kent and waste imported into the county. However the Waste Local Plan warns that there is currently insufficient energy from waste capacity to tackle future demands. The county’s only energy from waste incinerator at Allington, which already processes some London waste, is nearing its operating limits, and the provision of anaerobic digestion facilities in the county is inadequate to meet future demand.
Ramsgate Port is however in the unique position of being able to resolve many of Kent’s waste disposal problems. First, one of the easiest and cheapest ways to transport some, or all, of the estimated 87,000 tonnes of London waste for disposal in Kent would be by sea. It's no-coincidence that the alongside quay proposed for Ramsgate Port in the EKRB document lend itself admirably for hosting and unloading large waste transporting ships of up to 250 metres in length (the same also applies to large aggregate transporting vessels too).
Second, just a couple miles from Ramsgate Port is the Richborough Energy Park which has plans to construct waste incinerators and which already hosts anaerobic digestion facilities. Next door to the Richborough Energy Park is the large Thanet Waste site which also has the space and capacity to develop waste incineration and anaerobic digestors. The port is connected to these sites by a fast dual carriageway which could, with some further investment, handle hundreds of waste carrying HGVs a day.
Last but not least Thanet Council’s Director of Operational Services, Gavin Waite, worked in the commercial waste industry for several years and, I would imagine, is well connected with leaders of this industry, who I am sure would be extremely interested in developing partnerships with Thanet Council to manage the thousands of tonnes of household and commercial rubbish which might soon be passing through the Ramsgate Port every week. In fact my sources at the Council have already informed me that Mr Waite has held several meetings with waste management companies to discuss the use of the Port as a facilitator of a large scale waste disposal operation.
But what impact would a heavily industrialised port have upon Ramsgate and Thanet? Clearly the daily movement of hundreds of HGV vehicles servicing waste, aggregate and concrete related operations would contribute to a huge increase in air pollution which would be a serious threat to the health and well-being of local people. As would the noise, dust and smells generated by the large number of ships visiting the port every day and the operation of the plant and equipment required to support the likely waste management, aggregate and concrete related operations at the port. Our roads, which are already busy, would soon become even more congested and there would be a greatly increased risk to the many national and internationally protected marine conservation areas surrounding Ramsgate Port.
Thanet Council is legally required to produce an environmental impact assessment for any major developments it may be contemplating. However I can find no evidence that such assessment has been carried out on its plans for the Port. In my opinion the expansion and industrialisation of Ramsgate Port to include dirty industries such as aggregates, concrete production and waste handling is very likely to be an unmitigated environmental disaster. Industries such as these should be located in areas a long way from population centres and fragile internationally protected eco-systems.
Needless to say, having an expanded and industrialised port located just metres away from a historic and much visited Royal Harbour would be disastrous for Ramsgate’s growing tourist economy. Having filthy, dirty and noisy industries belching their pollution out across the seafront will kill the visitor industry dead and destroy the valuable income, jobs, and business opportunities which Ramsgate so desperately needs. It would be no exaggeration to say that an expanded and industrialised port would destroy many more jobs than it creates and generate less income than the current visitor economy.
This is why I oppose the expansion and industrialisation of Ramsgate Port because it’s a step backwards not forwards. It’s polluting and dangerous. It will destroy the tourist economy and it’s undemocratic because there has been no public debate or consultation about the plans.
I’m also bitterly disappointed that, with the honourable exception of MP Crag MacKinlay, all the major political parties in Thanet and East Kent appear to be supporting the industrialisation of the Port. UKIP led Thanet Council is backing the plans as are the four Conservative led councils and their political bosses who make up the EKRP. Even the Thanet Labour Party who, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, is supposedly embracing the green agenda, as remained shamefully silent on this extremely important local issue.
Perhaps that’s because it was the Thanet Council Labour Group which kicked off this drive to industrialise the Port with its publication, in 2014, of the Ramsgate Maritime Plan which, just like the EKRB proposals, was produced secretly behind closed doors with no public consultation.
I will be keeping the pressure on Thanet Council and will try my best to force it to reveal its full proposals for the Port of Ramsgate including the disclosure of full financial and environmental evaluations of its plans. I will also join residents in campaigning against the proposals and although I disagree with him on many issues, I will support MP Craig MacKinlay in his campaign for a leisure focused development at the Port
Ramsgate deserves much better than the dirty, polluting plans which are being foisted on the town without any consulation. Shame on those who are shitting on the town.