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 m3 of 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..”
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!”
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).