Approval given for Goodwin Sands dredging application

Photo Mark Stanford

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has approved an application for the dredging of the Goodwin Sands by Dover Harbour Board.

Prior notice from the MMO said it was “minded to grant a marine licence for Dover Harbour Board’s (DHB) marine licence application today (July 26) to dredge aggregate from the Goodwin Sands, 5.2km off the Kent coast. DHB propose to extract 3 million tonnes of marine aggregate, which will be used for land reclamation on the Dover Western Docks Revival (DWDR) project.”

This has now been confirmed with the publication of the decision notice. In it the MMO says: “An assessment of the likely significant impacts to the environment has been conducted and the MMO concludes that adequate mitigation measures will minimise the potential impacts of the project.”

In May 2016 Dover Harbour Board applied to the MMO for a licence to dredge 2.5 million m3 of sand from the Goodwin Sands to use for landfill and construction of their new Dover Western Docks.

In January 2017 DHB appointed Volker Stein Boskalis Westminster (VSBW) as their main contractors for phases 1 and 2.  In April 2017, Westminster Gravels Ltd, part of the Boskalis Westminster group, was granted a licence to dredge a new area in the Outer Thames Estuary called Area 501.

In August 2017, DHB announced they would be extracting 500,000 mof aggregate from this new area 501 as they need it for immediate works, reducing the amount of sand they wish to take from the Goodwins.

DHB say the Goodwins dredge  would keep costs low on the £250m project to rejuvenate Europe’s busiest port.

On its website DHB states: “Marine aggregates form the building blocks of modern day life. They’re used to build homes, offices, shops and roads. There are billions of tonnes of marine aggregate just a few miles up the coast from Dover – the Goodwin Sands. The Goodwin Sands have been dredged extensively for commercial use since the Second World War; for example, twice the volume we require for the development was used in the construction of the Channel Tunnel..”

Photo Mark Stanford

Pressure group  Goodwin Sands SOS (Save Our Sands)  is concerned about the environmental impact and the disturbing of war time graves.

A spokesman said: “The development is not reliant upon dredging specifically from the Goodwin Sands.  There are plenty of commercial dredging sites available in the East English Channel and the Thames Estuary.  These are all within the industry norm in terms of distance from site to wharf.”

Among the groups’ objections is the heritage in regards to parts of shipwrecks or military air crash sites and the dredging timetable for 2018 and 2019which coincides with the breeding season of the grey and harbour seals.

Features of the Goodwin Sands were have been designated for protection as a Marine Conservation Zone. A public consultation on the issue closed on July 20.

Campaign backers include North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale and Sir Mark Rylance, star of the recent ‘Dunkirk’ movie.

Joanna Thomson from Goodwin Sands SOS said the group may now seek a Judicial Review.

She said: “This is obviously very disappointing and frankly surprising news, bearing in mind the ink has hardly dried on the MCZ consultation. It appears this was only a paper exercise after all.

“We are in contact with the best environmental lawyer in the land to discuss seeking a Judicial Review of the MMO’s decision. The real battle of the Goodwin Sands could be only just beginning!”

Find more about the group here

Dredging will be undertaken 24 hours per day, seven days per week. It is anticipated that a complete dredge cycle will take 8 hours and comprise dredging to fill the hopper of the dredger(s), transit to the DWDR scheme at the Port’s Western Docks, discharge of the aggregate, and transit back to the proposed dredge area at South Goodwin Sands.

In good weather conditions it is anticipated that three dredging cycles will be completed by one dredger over a 24 hour period.

The MMO decision, all relevant documentation, including the updated marine licence application, further information requests and responses and representations received following the consultation periods, are available to the public via  the MMO marine licensing public register (case reference is MLA/2016/00227).


  1. Come on East Kent this can’t be allowed to happen we must all rise up against the Port of Dover through direct action.

  2. You guys know that goodwin is not the only place the seals go, and the dredging will have minimal impact on them as the sands will remain relatively unchanged before/after dredging? Let alone the fact that making this another community’s problem is just plain old dumb- especially when this is the closest and cheapest source. (What if the people we force them to dredge do not have the same support as SOS goodwin and you cause a much worse environmental disaster…?)

    It’s the war graves that are the true sticking points. This is the real reason it has taken DHB to get approval- and they have already done archeological surveys at cost to them just to make sure they avoid as much damage to potential wrecks/sites as possible.

    I had a good discussion on SOS goodwin before they kicked me, where not a single person could find a better site to acquire the same level of marine aggregate (a lot of people said the thames estuary, which does not contain the required sand nor would be better for the environment…)

    Which is the main problem! We have usable building sand off our coast doing nothing. They wish to take some of it for building, while leaving the majority of it where it is to keep the seals habitat secure and preserve war graves- yet everyone is up in arms with no other possible soloution…?

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