Published: 13:08, 15 June 2020
| Updated: 14:12, 15 June 2020
The Goodwin Sands could become one of the Government’s first designated Highly Protected Marine Areas.
The news comes following a bitterly fought battle between campaigners and the Port of Dover which wants to dredge the shifting sandbank for aggregate for the port's expansion project.
A special review published last week sets out how the new system of protected zones should work.
It recommends that dredging and other forms of extraction should be prohibited and that the Government should consider Goodwin Sands when it selects up to five pilot zones.
In 2018, the Port of Dover was granted a licence to dredge for its Western Docks Revival Project, a £250 million scheme to develop the port for cargo, cruise liners and small boats use.
Shortly after being elected in December, MP Natalie Elphicke met with campaigners and promised to seek greater long-term protection for the Sands.
She has since held meetings with ministers including the Environment Secretary.
Following this week’s news, Mrs Elphicke said: “Protecting the marine environment is so important for areas like ours – because it affects not just us but our children and grandchildren.
“That’s why this week’s news is so encouraging – a system of fresh protections and two sites in our area put forward for further review.
“I’m pleased our concerns are being listened to and I will be working with local groups to make the best possible case for our Sands in the next stage.
“I’ll also continue the work with them on management and mitigation strategies around the planned dredging work.”
Shakespeare Beach in Dover was also included on the list of sites that the review recommends should be “the starting point for selecting future HMPAs”.
It states: “The UK’s current network of Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) protects discrete habitats and species while allowing sustainable use to continue.
"This means that extractive and depositional activities continue in many such sites, albeit under strict conditions.
"While important for overall marine conservation, these MPAs do not allow ecosystems to fully recover or deliver the full range of ecosystem services.
“HPMAs allow marine ecosystems to recover to a mature state. By taking a ‘whole site approach’ to designation, thereby protecting all habitats and species in their boundaries, HPMAs give nature the best chance to thrive.”
Goodwin SOS based its campaign around the marine ecological effects of dredging, accelerated coastal erosion and war graves of Battle of Britain pilots being disturbed by dredging machines.
The pressure group, which includes members from Deal, Sandwich and Dover, now operates Goodwin Sands Conservation Trust, which uses charitable status to continue the fight by enhancing public understanding and securing the protection of the Sands into the future.
Joanna Thomson of the trust said: "Prior to her election in December last year, Natalie made a commitment to the Conservation Trust that she would work towards securing effective long-term protection from destructive extraction activities on the Goodwin Sands.
"We are delighted that she is fulfilling this commitment by having direct discussions with ministers over the inclusion of the Goodwin Sands as an HPMA and we look forward to continuing to work with her towards our mutual goal'
We are also delighted that one of our comments submitted in the Call for Evidence is actually published in the review."
A Port of Dover spokesperson said: "In reference to the recent review, Goodwin Sands and Shakespeare beach are two of 47 sites that were proposed by stakeholders and which have not yet been fully analysed and are stated as not being endorsed by the panel.
"In the event that Goodwin Sands is selected as a pilot scheme, the Port will of course be pleased to engage in the consultation.
"The decision by the Marine Management Organisation in 2018, upheld by the High Court in 2019, to grant a marine licence in relation to the Goodwin Sands followed an extensive, iterative and consultative process with all respective primary consultees.
"The licence includes a number of conditions specifically designed to protect the environment."
The spokesman was not able to confirm whether the port will continue with the dredging under its current licence.
More by this authorBeth Robson
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