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MP Sir Roger Gale condemns "cheapskate" plans to dredge Goodwin Sands off Deal in public consultation

By Sam Lennon

An MP has condemned a “cheapskate approach” over the dredging of the Goodwin Sands to make way for a major port redevelopment.

Sir Roger Gale has written a letter of objection to Dover Harbour Board's public consultation condemning its plans to dig the area to cut costs.

He says there could be 2,000 ships buried there and tens of thousands of people, many in war graves.

The Goodwin Sands. Picture: Ian Goodban
The Goodwin Sands. Picture: Ian Goodban

The North Thanet MP’s letter - sent to the Marine Management Organisation - has been sent in response to the third public consultation over Dover Harbour Board's application for a licence to dredge the sands for its Dover Western Docks Revival development.

He said: “I am not opposed to the development of the Port of Dover but I do not believe that a cheapskate approach such as that proposed can be regarded as acceptable in the context of our maritime and aviation heritage.

“I trust that the application will be rejected.”

The public consultation ends on Thursday, September 28.

Sir Roger says that having discussed the issue with port bosses he remains convinced that the digging would have a harmful effect on a site of enormous maritime archaeological importance and a civilian and war grave location.

He wrote: “Notwithstanding undertakings that wrecks of ships and aircraft have been identified and that the removal of further sand in ‘small quantities' and ‘from the periphery of the site’ it is inevitable, given the shifting nature of the sands, that any such extraction will lead to a compensatory infill and the likely exposure of buried remains.

Sir Roger Gale MP
Sir Roger Gale MP

He added: “It is believed that there are some 2,000 ships and tens of thousands of people that have found their final resting place in the sands in addition to many aircraft.

“It is not acceptable that these should be disturbed except under properly controlled, monitored and recorded archaeological conditions.

“The proposals as submitted seem to me to take a cavalier attitude towards what is in very real terms part of our national and international heritage and I can find no evidence of any protocols in place to pay other than lip-service to the likelihood of an unanticipated discovery.”

Sir Roger said he believed that the attempt to dredge the sands is “driven solely by cost,” yet there are alternative sites as close as the Thames Estuary.

The MP had previously spoken out against the dredging, in a KM column for his constituency, last month.

Scene of the Dover Western Docks Revival development site
Scene of the Dover Western Docks Revival development site

The Port of Dover wants to dredge a total 2.5 million cubic metres for its £250 million Western Docks redevelopment.

It argues that the project would bring hundreds of jobs to the area and it only wants to dig 0.22% of the sands.

In August it launched a Deliver for Dover campaign to gain public support for the dredging.

It said that using the Goodwin Sands would be environmentally better and more cost effective.

It warned that inability to dredge there Dover could lose £0.5bn in jobs, regeneration, tourism and new business.

It said that Dovorians would end up with an unfinished waterfront in what is meant to be the biggest regeneration in the area since the Second World War.

The port authority had applied for a licence in May 2016 but the issue has dragged on through the scale of opposition against the scheme, particularly by the protest group Goodwin Sands SOS (Save Our Sands).

To press on with the project it has identified an alternative dredging site, to get the first 800,000 cubic metres, north of the Thames Estuary towards Harwich.

But the port authority warns that this will have a “significant impact on cost” along with a larger carbon footprint.

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