Council delays replacement aggregate berth project at Ramsgate Port

Berth 4/5

A project to replace berth 4/5 at the Port of Ramsgate is to be delayed until early 2021 after Thanet council conceded than an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is needed for the replacement of the berth.

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 contract start date had originally been set for September 14. TDC previously raised concerns it could be delayed because the MMO wanted the work screened for an environmental impact assessment.

Councillors were told delays could cost the authority up to £11k a week. It was then earmarked for a November start date but will now not begin until next year.

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.

Brett Aggregates at Ramsgate Port

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 made by Thanet council 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.

Green councillor Becky Wing is among those who lodged objections to the plans. In her statement she said using General Permitted Development (GPD) was not appropriate for a number of reasons, including the lack of an  Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) associated with the cement batcher.

There were further issues raised about the application, including the lack of clarity over the expansion of the aggregates facility.

Members from Thanet Green Party

Thanet Green Party said members welcome the “belated acknowledgement” that replacing Berths 4/5 at Ramsgate Port will require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as Thanet Greens and others have argued since this was first proposed.

A spokesperson said: “Sadly, those in charge refused to listen. When TDC made an application to the Marine Management Organisation for these works, a senior officer went so far as to refuse our Central Harbour Ward Councillor sight of it, although the works were in her own ward. The present muddle and confusion are the result of this lack of communication.

“We believe full planning, environmental and marine licence permissions should be undertaken before this development can go ahead. Ramsgate Port is only a few hundred metres from the Pegwell Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest, whose delicate balance must not be disturbed.

Ramsgate Port

“We understand there are fears that the present Berths 4/5 may fail over this winter. Under the notoriously badly-drafted Bretts contract, TDC rather than Bretts is responsible for replacing the berths. This being the case, we would have expected a business plan for replacement to have been developed long before now, but this does not seem to have been done.

“As a result, if the Berths are not useable TDC may now have to cover the cost of Brett Aggregates accessing their site by land – something that clearly could have been avoided with forethought. Any additional cost from the current proposed delay is clearly therefore the responsibility of those who should have planned for the replacement in advance and ensured appropriate processes were followed.

“TDC’s change of heart could not have been achieved without the welcome support of Ramsgate KCC Councillors Constantine and Messenger, certain other concerned TDC and RTC Councillors, and all those members of the local community who wrote to TDC to express their concerns about the proposed development proceeding without an Impact Assessment. We are delighted that so many residents, like us, want appropriate process to be followed so our precious environment is protected.”

Central Harbour Green Councillor Becky Wing added: “We have been working with the community and cross-party for a long time now on this issue and are pleased that the need to follow due process is at last being recognised. This is not about stopping development or change anywhere in Thanet, but about ensuring change represents real progress, about doing the right thing for people and the environment, and about ensuring council-taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. It is about putting people and places first. This is not the end of the community’s struggle to be heard and valued by our district council but the start.”

County Councillor Karen Constantine had also raised the issue of the lack of an EIA with the county authority. She said: “I have been concerned about Ramsgate Port and the potential to damage to our environment since I was first elected to KCC in 2017. It took me several years to establish that there was no EIA. In June, after a lengthy email exchange I challenged KCC and requested “that KCC provide the EIA urgently or can I draw the conclusion that it doesn’t exist? “

“The silence was deafening. It was clear that the EIA didn’t exist. Once this was established we were able to run a coach and horses through any potential development.

“Nothing should be allowed to damage our environment and marine ecology. KCC deliberately dragged their feet, they must stop ‘playing politics’ and should provide properly requested information to all Councillors in a timely fashion regardless of what party they represent.”