Published: 00:01, 18 March 2017
An unprecedented third public consultation on dredging the Goodwin Sands is expected.
It follows the analysis of new survey results and means a decision on giving a licence is unlikely to be made before June.
The news comes from campaign group Goodwin Sands SOS (Save Our Sands), which is fighting the Port of Dover’s plans to dredge.
GSSOS campaign co-ordinator Joanna Thomson said: “Once the survey results have been analysed they will be subject to an unprecedented third 42-day public consultation period.
“This means a decision on the dredging licence is unlikely to be made before June.”
The latest development was revealed after campaigners met two senior officers from the government’s Marine Management Organisation in London.
They were head of licensing Shaun Nicholson and senior case manager Matthew Kimmond.
The MMO confirmed that the proposed magnetometer survey, to detect iron and steel objects lying on or under the seabed, will be conducted in late spring or early summer.
This is because the right sea state is needed get satisfactory readings.
GSSOS member Andy Ashenhurst presented Mr Kimmond with a comprehensive interim report on the coastal erosion issue.
It included comments from two coastal experts that GSSOS has consulted, Prof Mike Phillips and Prof Robert Duck. Their main concern is that no field measurements have been undertaken, which would determine the current movements of sand in, out and around the Goodwins.
Prof Duck, an environmental geoscientist, had met GSSOS in January and said he feared that a licence from the government could lead to the Goodwins becoming a commercial dredging site.
He said this could have a severe effect on this stretch of coast as the sands protect the east Kent foreshore.
GSSOS also does not want dredging because if fears disturbance of the remains of Battle of Britain pilots.
It also wants to protect a proposed Marine Conservation Zone and a seal colony.
The Port of Dover wants to dig 2.5m cubic metres of material for its major redevelopment, the Dover Western Docks Revival.
It argues that the south western area it has chosen will lead to the least environmental impact.
The harbour board adds that all known military sites will be avoided along with the seal areas and sensitive seabed habitats.
Port of Dover spokesman Chris Talbot said: “The port can confirm that the MMO has requested a magnetometer survey to provide further information to support the marine licence application.
“This will be to a specification agreed by Historic England and the MMO and conducted at further expense to the port.
“Protesters need to be clear that 99.7% of the Goodwin Sands will be untouched by the port’s dredging proposals.
“The small amount of aggregate in question will be from a very carefully and expertly selected site that represents the least environmental impact of all the aggregate options available to us.
“The Goodwin Sands has been dredged on numerous occasions since the Second World War for national infrastructure projects.
"This time it will help to ensure the ongoing resilience of this critical cross-Channel supply route for millions of consumers and businesses across our island nation for generations to come.
“To be absolutely clear this dredge is vital to deliver the sympathetic regeneration of Dover, awaited for more than 70 years and our community must not be let down.”
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