Goodwin Sands dredging plans 'disgusting'

Image caption,
The 10-mile (16km) long sandbank lies about six miles off the coast of Deal

Campaigners have called a decision to take sand from the site of dozens of shipwrecks and wartime air crashes "dishonourable and disgusting".

Dover Harbour Board (DHB) applied to dredge Goodwin Sands and use the sand for building work on the Western Docks.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has now approved plans to remove three million tonnes of aggregate.

David Brocklehurst, chairman of the Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge, said it was a "tragedy".

He has previously said about 60 aircraft crashed during four months of 1940 at the site, with at least 74 airman missing in and around Goodwin Sands.

He believes there are hundreds more in the area, and potentially thousands of sailors who were unaccounted for from shipwrecks through the ages.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A World War II Dornier 17 aircraft is lifted from waters of the English Channel on June 10, 2013, at Goodwin Sands

Mr Brocklehurst added: "There are thousands of airman and seamen there, whose remains will be sucked up, and they are unlikely to ever be identified with this method... it's dishonourable and disgusting.

"It just shows a complete lack of understanding - how would they feel if it was their grandfather, or uncle?"

The dredging is set to take place between September 2019 and September 2020.

It follows a public consultation, which received more than 1,300 comments.

Image source, Lizzie Massey
Image caption,
An illustration of how the the Dover Western Docks Revival will look

John Tuckett, head of the MMO, said the licence was granted because "sufficient measures were proposed to protect the marine environment, prevent interference with legitimate users of the seas and mitigate impacts to any other relevant matters".

He added: "We understand the strength of feeling surrounding this development... We accept that not everyone will be happy with the decisions we make."

Marinet - a national marine conservation organisation - campaigned to prevent the dredging and co-ordinator Stephen Eades said the news was "most regrettable".

He added: "It will likely cause severe damage to the marine life and the aircraft remains. This is a decision which respects neither of these two things.

"The DHB could easily go elsewhere for the sand, but they have allowed commercial interests to rule."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Blue mussels are part of Goodwin Sands' marine life, with ross worms

A spokesman for DHB said: "This is excellent news for British trade; Dover Western Docks Revival will create additional capacity and resilience in a port which already handles 17% of the UK's trade in goods."

Natural England confirmed the site was earmarked to become a Marine Conservation Zone for its diverse marine life, including blue mussels and ross worms.

The MMO determined dredging will not have an impact on the conservation objectives of the proposal.

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