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Celebrities Mark Rylance and Miriam Margolyes fight to save Goodwin Sands from Port of Dover dredging plans

By Emily Stott

The campaign against dredging the Goodwin Sands has gained support from film and TV stars, writers and a marine ecologist ahead of a meeting tonight.

Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance, Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes, and Deborah Moggach, whose novel These Foolish Things was turned into the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, have all pledged their support to the Goodwin Sands SOS campaign.

Marine and coastal ecologist Maya Plass is also against the plans of Dover Harbour Board (DHB) to dredge the Sands for aggregate to be used in the Dover Western Docks Revival.

Award-winning actor Mark Rylance is getting behind the campaign to stop Dover Harbour Board dredging the Goodwin Sands

BFG and Wolf Hall star Mr Rylance, who was born in Ashford, said: “My great-grandfather was a resident of Dover. He was the captain of a cross-Channel ferry.

"On one occasion he even sailed the king across the channel. My grandmother grew up in Dover.

“I am sure they would have supported the campaign to save the Goodwin Sands from dredging for all the very good reasons that the campaign has argued. I support it too.

“It is particularly important today that we honour our past and ancestors as part of what we truly are now.

“We are an island and our coast and shore is as important an aspect of our landscape as any green field or hill. Would they dredge an ancient graveyard or battlefield?

“Our historical relationship with ships and the wide oceans of the world is a vital part of our culture and our connection to so many other different cultures.”

Miriam Margolyes, who lives in St Margaret’s, has written directly to the DHB to plead for the board to stop this “dangerous enterprise”.

Miriam Margolyes who has a home in St Margaret's Bay wrote an impassioned letter to Dover Harbour Board about the planned dredging of agrigate from the Goodwin Sands

She said: “I own a house on the cliff top at St Margaret’s Bay and we already have to face terrifying cliff erosion.

“It seems you have no sense of what damage your project will cause to local people and to the environment.

“I would like to place on record my profound disgust at this brutal application and urge you to drop the whole idea.

“I’ve always believed in the harbour board until now and have defended the docks and the people who try to earn their living here in the depressed South East, but this is a dangerous and appalling project, which will threaten the whole coastline.

“You have become destroyers of what makes this area so wonderful.”

She said her objections were based on the sea life that could be destroyed or negatively affected, including 350 grey seals that would be disturbed by the noise and vibration and the impact on their food source.

She claims lowering the seabed could cause coastal erosion and leave sea defences less effective.

Ms Margolyes also said that the buried wrecks of the Admiral Gardner and possibly a German U12 submarine and the remains of Battle of Britain planes and pilots could be disturbed and desecrated.

Deborah Moggach, author of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Author and screenplay writer Deborah Moggach, who has a holiday home in Kingsdown, has appealed to the Marine Management Organisation, which is reviewing the application to dredge.

She said: “Myself and my family would like to make the strongest possible objection to this application, to dredge from this very fragile and special ecosystem. There is nowhere like the Goodwin Sands, and to disturb it would do huge damage to the wildlife there – the colony of seals, the spawning fish and the marine life in general.

“This site has been recommended by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as a Marine Conservation Zone and must be protected for future generations.

“Dredging on such a scale would further add to the erosion along the coast, by altering the sea currents. The knock-on effects could be calamitous.

“Please, please turn down this application. This wild, unique and magical place would be ruined.”

Maya Plass, the marine ecologist who was also born in Kent, has pledged her support for the Goodwin Sands SOS campaign on Twitter and signed the petition – which has now gained more than 8,000 signatures.

She shared a video of wildlife at the Sands online.

The Goodwin Sands. Picture: Ian Goodban

Responding to the Goodwin Sands SOS campaign's claims, a spokesman for Dover Western Docks Revival posted the following response on the DWDR Facebook page:

“We recognise there are concerns, but we think it is important to highlight ‘truths’.

“There is a single vessel designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

“The German submarine U-12, lost near Dover in the English Channel in 1939 after being struck by a mine, is designated as a protected place under this Act.

“The vessel was designated after being nominated by the German government as representative of all German submarines lost within UK jurisdiction. There is no evidence to suggest that this submarine is located within the study area, and the presence of a previously undiscovered, intact vessel of this size buried within the proposed dredge area is considered very unlikely.

“The location of the wreck of the U-12 remains unknown... But if it were to be found it would be automatically protected.

Dover Harbour Board has said all along that extensive studies have shown there would be no coastal impact on the Sands, and dredging there would be more environmentally friendly than taking aggregate from further away, which would require an increase in lorry movements around Dover.

The port's diagram which shows how much of the Goodwin Sands it intends to dredge

It is holding an open meeting at Discovery Park today (Thursday) at The Gateway from 4pm until 7pm.

The Marine Management Organisation review runs until Wednesday, July 20. You can sign the Goodwin Sands SOS petition calling on the dredging plan to be dropped by clicking here.

Views can be emailed to marine.consents@marinemanagement.org.uk; quote the reference MLA/2016/00227.

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