Dozens of objections have been lodged against Thanet council’s plans to replace the aggregates berth at Ramsgate Port with a much larger facility.
Thanet council says berth 4/5, currently used by Brett Aggregrates, is ending its operational life and the authority has a “legally binding agreement” to provide berth facilities for the company.
A budget of £887,000 is being used for the replacement.
The contract for the works has been awarded to Bam Nuttall – using one of the pontoons that was formerly part of a two-for-one deal rejected by councillors last December.
The replacement pontoon will mean there is ability for a huge hike in capacity for the aggregate conveyor belt.
The current berth was built in 1998 and refurbished in 2006 and supports a 400 tonne per hour conveyor belt and is capable of docking 90m vessels.
The new berth will be fitted with a permanently fixed 3,000 tonne/hour conveyor… “to facilitate future expansion for the landing of bulk cargos, the trafficking of mobile plant and with a lifespan of a minimum of 30 years.” It will be capable of docking 120m vessels.
The fixture will also be moved further away from the ro-ro berth.
A prior approval application under a ‘general permitted development order’ for the works at the Crown Estate leased site has been made by Thanet council.
But the proposals have prompted more than 40 objections with many raising issues including why there has not been an Environmental Impact Assessment for the site despite its proximity to areas of Special Scientific Interest; why the council is paying for improvements not requested by Brett Aggregates, which leases the site; why the increased aggregates capacity and whether industrial expansion is planned.
Green councillor Becky Wing is among those to lodge objections to the plans. In her statement she says using General Permitted Development (GPD) is not appropriate for a number of reasons.
These include the lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) associated with the cement batcher.
She says: “A letter from TDC officer Doug Brown to Bretts, dated 28th May 2010 states that an Environmental Assessment was done, giving permission for the cement batcher to be developed. However, neither KCC nor Natural England (English Nature) have any record of this, and nor apparently does TDC.
“This has left us with a cement batching facility without any recorded planning consent or EIA for the current operation.”
She adds that the use of GPD by TDC means the council is both the ‘applicant’ and ‘appropriate authority’, “raising serious issues concerning potential conflict of interest.,” and says Kent County Council has the statutory responsibility to plan for future mineral supply and waste management’.
There are further issues raised about the application, including the lack of clarity over the expansion of the aggregates facility.
Cllr Wing says: “The application states the new pontoon will be a ‘similar facility’ and a ‘broadly similar concept to the existing berth’. In terms of function this may well be correct, but it will in fact be over 300% larger in size, with a potential increase in conveyer capacity of 750% according to TDC’s own tender. TDC’s Marine Licence Application states that the increase in size will improve stability, but it is not clear why the increase in capacity is required.”
There are also fears over attempts for the conveyor to be used for other uses – such as the manufacturing and waste wood processing plan raised by the O’Regan group in 2015. This proposal did not come to fruition following fierce local opposition.
Other concerns include the financial cost at a time when Thanet council faces a large budget shortfall and the possible conflict with a port feasibility study commissioned by the council to look at future uses for the land. There are also questions over a lack of insight into cumulative impact regarding health and water supply contamination.
Cllr Wing adds: “My only intention is to ensure appropriate planning and environmental legislation, as well as marine licences, are applied and followed to the highest standard, so that both people and our environment are fully protected. In addition, as an elected member I am committed to ensuring that planning decisions are appropriately evidenced and have a sound business case so that the best value for council-taxpayers’ money is achieved. A failure to do this would be a failure to work in the best interest of residents, our communities and Thanet as a whole.”
Several questions regarding the berth replacement have been submitted for the full council meeting on October 15 but have been rejected because it is a ‘live planning application.’
Among those questions was one from resident Matthew Hurling asking: “The land rental received from Brett’s over the 30-year life of the proposed pontoon is smaller than TDC’s financial outlay. In considering this and the massively increase pontoon capacity, could TDC confirm if they have plans for, or anticipate offering areas for additional industrial activity at the port?”
Work to replace the aggregates berth at Ramsgate Port is expected to start this November.
The contract start date had been set for September 14 but TDC previously raised concerns it could be delayed because the MMO wants the work screened for an environmental impact assessment.
Councillors were told delays could cost the authority up to £11k a week.
Thanet council says: “The proposal constitutes permitted development as described in Schedule 2, Part 18 Class A of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. As such an application for prior approval has been submitted to Thanet District Council as the Local Planning Authority as described by the above legislation.”
The application can be seen on the Thanet planning portal using reference PA/TH/20/1092