Kent

Residents vote in favour of Dover 'People's Port'

Port of Dover
Image caption The Port of Dover is the largest passenger port in northern Europe

The residents of Dover have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a plan to try to buy the town's port.

In a referendum organised by the Dover People's Port Trust, 5,244 people voted in favour, with 113 against.

The result, which is non-binding on the government, was a reaction to Dover Harbour Board's privatisation plans.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: "I hope this will give strength to the campaign to ensure the port of Dover is owned by the people of Dover."

'Best option'

Mr Elphicke, a Conservative, said he would now be making "a strong case" to the secretary of state for transport that residents' "voices should be listened to and we should have the port owned by the Dover community as a landmark project".

Dover Harbour Board, which has run the port as a trust since 1606, asked the government for permission to privatise it in January last year. A decision is still awaited.

A Port of Dover spokesperson said it had always recognised the importance of local opinion and had involved the community extensively in the consultation process and beyond.

"As such we will reflect on the result of this Dover town poll, but we remain absolutely convinced that our voluntary scheme, developed over a number of years, represents the best and only option."

But Neil Wiggins, chairman of the Dover People's Port Trust, said he believed the result of the referendum was "possibly more binding" on the government than other referenda in the past because of its own "flagship policy of Big Society and communities taking charge of their own futures".

Dame Vera Lynn

"This has been a clear example of the community of Dover showing a desire to take charge of its own future," he said.

About 21,000 people were eligible to vote in the referendum, and the turnout was about 25%.

The people's trust started its £200m bid to buy the port in October, a move which attracted support from Dame Vera Lynn.

Dover District Council organised the vote but its cost, which has not yet been revealed, will be met by Dover Town Council, which called for the referendum.

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