Fiona Punter, David Brocklehurst MBE from the Kent Battle of Britain Museum and Joanna Thomson all reply to Neil Wiggins from the Dover Harbour Board.
The Guardian has published an article on industrial scale sand mining going on across the world, including a reference to the Goodwin Sands.
Monday 27th February 2017
“From Cambodia to California, industrial-scale sand mining is causing wildlife to die, local trade to wither and bridges to collapse. And booming urbanisation means the demand for this increasingly valuable resource is unlikely to let up.
Times are good for Fey Wei Dong. A genial, middle-aged businessman based near Shanghai, China, Fey says he is raking in the equivalent of £180,000 a year from trading in the humblest of commodities: sand.
Fey often works in a fishing village on Poyang Lake, China’s biggest freshwater lake and a haven for millions of migratory birds and several endangered species. The village is little more than a tiny collection of ramshackle houses and battered wooden docks. It is dwarfed by a flotilla anchored just offshore, of colossal dredges and barges, hulking metal flatboats with cranes jutting from their decks. Fey comes here regularly to buy boatloads of raw sand dredged from Poyang’s bottom. He ships it 300 miles down the Yangtze River and resells it to builders in booming Shanghai who need it to make concrete.
The demand is voracious. The global urbanisation boom is devouring colossal amounts of sand – the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt. Shanghai, China’s financial centre, has exploded in the last 20 years. The city has added 7 million new residents since 2000, raising its population to more than 23 million. In the last decade, Shanghai has built more high-rises than there are in all of New York City, as well as countless miles of roads and other infrastructure. “My sand helped build Shanghai Pudong airport,” Fey brags.
Hundreds of dredgers may be on the lake on any given day, some the size of tipped-over apartment buildings. The biggest can haul in as much as 10,000 tonnes of sand an hour. A recent study estimates that 236m cubic metres of sand are taken out of the lake annually. That makes Poyang the biggest sand mine on the planet, far bigger than the three largest sand mines in the US combined. “I couldn’t believe it when we did the calculations,” says David Shankman, a University of Alabama geographer and one of the study’s authors.
All that dredging, researchers believe, is a key reason why the lake’s water level has dropped dramatically in recent years. So much sand has been scooped out, says Shankman – 30 times more than the amount that flows in from tributary rivers – that the lake’s outflow channel has been drastically deepened and widened, nearly doubling the amount of water that flows into the Yangtze. The lower water levels are translating into declines in water quality and supply to surrounding wetlands. It could be ruinous for the area’s inhabitants, both animal and human.”
Environmentalists in many places are similarly calling on their governments to rein in sand mining. In Northern Ireland, activists are trying to stop dredging in Lough Neagh, an important bird sanctuary. In southern England, developers want to dredge sand to expand the port of Dover from a stretch of offshore sandbars and shoals, prompting an outcry from conservationists who fear that would endanger the seals, birds and other marine life for whom the sandbars provide habitat and food.
As land quarries and riverbeds become exhausted, sand miners are turning to the seas. The UK, for instance, gets about one fifth of the nation’s sand from the ocean floor. Worldwide, thousands of ships vacuum up millions of tonnes from the seabed each year, tearing up habitats and muddying waters with sand plumes that can affect aquatic life far from the original site.
28th February 2017
Dear Goodwin Sands SOS supporters,
I am attaching a short article that was published in The Sunday Times on 26th February, which highlights the issues associated with dredging the Goodwin Sands
‘Discovery by dredging’ is not acceptable practice, especially in an area well known to contain the final resting places of young airmen who lost their lives in the service of their countries.
Next week we will be meeting the MMO in London to get an update on the current status of the dredging licence application and to discuss the ‘way forward for future engagement’ between them and us. We have been sending them a steady flow of information over the past few months so it will be interesting to hear what they have to say!
Thank you as always for your continued support and please do keep spreading the word and encouraging everyone you know to sign the petition.
Joanna Thomson and Fiona Punter
A great article in The Canterbury Index magazine to get the campaign’s New Year 2017 off to a flying start!
You can also read the two pages here: January 2017 – INDEX
Dover Harbour Board has been requested by the MMO to undertake magnetometer surveys and submit the results for a further public consultation.
This is obviously good news as it shows the campaign is making an impact. However, a magnetometer will only detect ferrous (iron) items, such as cannons or steam ships. It’s no good for finding aircraft parts (aluminium), human remains, palaeolithic archaeology, bronze age boats or Elizabethan sailing ships … a point we will obviously be making to the MMO.
The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom’s office has acknowledged our request for an investigation into why the dredging licence issued in 1976, for ‘one project only’, was then repeated four times.
So, its onwards and upwards for 2017 – We hope you all have a very happy Christmas and thank you so much for your support over the past months. We couldn’t have got this far without you!
You may not have heard from us recently but our efforts to stop the proposed dredging still continue apace. Last month, the MMO held a meeting with the Ministry of Defence, Dover Harbour Board and their consultants to try to address the MoD’s continued concerns with regard to the Protection of Military Remains Act.
Goodwin Sands SOS was not invited to the meeting as we are not considered primary advisors and we are still awaiting the publication of the Minutes on the public register. At our insistence however, the MMO are hosting another meeting in January with members of the Joint Nautical Archaeological Policy Committee so they can address their own concerns at first hand to the MMO.
In the meantime, research by GWS SOS has unearthed newspaper articles reporting that the first dredging licence issued in 1976 was ‘for one project only’ and would not be ‘the thin end of the wedge for the further taking of sand’. GWS SOS are taking the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP to task over this and have called for an investigation into why four further dredging licences were issued. An acknowledgement to this request has been received.
We would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and thank you so much for your continued support. We will continue the fight in 2017 and do please remember that the petition is still alive and kicking and waiting to be signed!
A despatch by Susie Mesure for the Radio 4 program “From our Home Correspondent” – 27th November 2016.
An excellent article supporting the campaign to save the Goodwin Sands
A serene sandbank off the Kentish coast is the hidden home of more than 1,000 sunken ships… and a war grave
By Fiona Young-Brown
21 November 2016
Six miles off the coast of Deal in East Kent, England, seal pups frolic on the ever-changing, intricately-patterned sands that are exposed at low tide. Beneath the water’s surface is a thriving ecosystem of blue mussels, sand eels and peeler crabs.
These are the Goodwin Sands, a 10-mile stretch of sandbank that has been recommended by the Wildlife Trusts as a future Marine Conservation Zone. In addition to providing a home for a wide variety of sea life, the Sands help bolster coastal protection against erosion.
But they may disappear. The Dover Harbour Board wants to dredge 2.5 million tons from the Goodwin Sands as part of plans to expand the port – one of Europe’s busiest – and provide much-needed regeneration to Dover’s seafront.
However, the board has met resistance. Some of that is due to environmental factors. But there is another reason, too: the Goodwin Sands are home to Britain’s largest underwater graveyard.
Hidden just beneath the water’s surface at high tide, the Sands are one of the most dangerous spots in the English Channel. During storms they can be particularly deadly.
In late November 1703, when southern Britain saw the worst natural disaster in its history, a massive cyclone now known as the Great Storm, more than 1,000 seamen died on the Goodwin Sands.
The Goodwin Sands are home to Britain’s largest underwater graveyard
Among the many ships lost that night was the HMS Stirling Castle, which was discovered by local divers in 1979. Since 1980, it has been a designated protected wreck under the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act – meaning access to it is restricted in order to prevent vandalism and salvage operations.
A century later, on 24 January 1809, the East India Company ship the Admiral Gardner departed from London bound for Madras. It carried a cargo of iron, guns, anchors, and 48 tons of company coins – currency for the workers in India.
As the ship passed the coast of Kent, a fierce gale blew in. It ran aground on the Goodwin Sands along with two other East India ships that same night. Efforts to save the ship were futile, although somewhat miraculously, only one life was lost.
These three East India Company ships, as well as the HMS Stirling Castle, are just a few of more than 1,000 shipwrecks buried beneath the Goodwin Sands. Some believe the number of wrecks may be as high as 2,000.
When the Sands were dredged in 1979 for construction at Dover Harbour, workers found East India Company coins in the material. A few years later, salvage operations at the Admiral Gardner recovered more than one million coins before the wreck was designated a protected area. There is now a 300m (985ft) exclusion zone around its remains.
The Dover Harbour Board says these exclusion zones will remain untouched. The dredging process will be limited to an estimated 0.22% of the total volume of the Goodwin Sands, says the board’s spokesperson Antony Greenwood. What’s more, anomalies that have been identified by archaeological surveys – potentially other shipwrecks – will be left untouched.
The Goodwin Sands serve as breeding grounds for the local seal population
But opponents point out that the Goodwin Sands are a closed system, meaning that the Sands are all one entity, constantly moving in a circular direction, with little material moving in or out. As a result, says Stephen Eades of the marine conservation nonprofit Marinet, “If they were to dredge this site, any hole will be filled by sand from elsewhere within the Goodwin Sands system, thereby exposing and damaging other sites.”
In other words, work in one area could place the whole Sands at risk.
Greenwood disagrees, noting that larger amounts of sand were dredged from the area in the 1970s and again in the 1990s when construction of the Channel Tunnel was underway. These procedures appear to have done little to no damage to the Goodwin Sands – though it is worth noting that detailed before-and-after surveys were not carried out to measure possible changes in the marine ecosystem.
That ecosystem is another part of why campaigners are fighting against dredging. Among other things, the Goodwin Sands serve as breeding grounds for the local seal population and as a spawning site for herring and other fish.
This entire area is a collective war grave – Stephen Eades
The Sands also provide coastal protection against erosion and flooding. A natural breaker, they absorb some of the energy from the waves that pound this part of the coast. That is particularly important to the communities of Deal and Kingsdown, where flood defences are currently under construction at a cost of almost £10 million.
The best chance anti-dredging campaigners have, though, might have nothing to do with flooding, marine animals or even shipwrecks at all. “This entire area is a collective war grave,” says Eades.
In 2013, the last surviving Dornier World War Two bomber was raised from the Goodwin Sands, where it had been shot down during the Battle of Britain. The German aircraft is now undergoing restoration work at RAF Cosford.
But a number of World War Two planes and their crews remain buried beneath the Sands. David Brocklehurst of the Kent Battle of Britain Museum has compiled a list of 60 aircraft believed to have landed or crashed on the Goodwin Sands in 1940 alone. Of these, at least 50 had crews listed as killed or missing.
They will only see the damage or destruction once it has occurred
Air Force historians are double-checking the accuracy of Brocklehurst’s list, which could upend the plans to dredge. Under the terms set out in The Protection of Military Remains Act (1986), it is an offense to disturb a site where there is military aircraft wreckage and likely human remains.
Greenwood points to a series of procedures that will mitigate any potential damage to historic sites, like having an archaeological consultant on board the dredger to ensure correct protocols are followed. But opponents believe more needs to be done.
In a letter to the Marine Management Organisation opposing the licensing application, the Nautical Archaeology Society argues that having observers on the dredging vessels will not help, since “they will only see the damage or destruction once it has occurred.”
The period for public comment on the dredging closes in November 2016, after which the Marine Management Organisation will make a decision. Even if a license is granted, the Ministry of Defence could prohibit any activity while further research into the World War Two aircraft is conducted.
Some believe the number of wrecks may be as high as 2,000
And if the permissions are granted? It is possible that the dredging will have no lasting effect on the Sands or the coastal towns of Kent.
But with a potentially risky future for local residents, the question remains about whether the dead should be left to rest in peace aboard their vessels – and the Goodwin Sands allowed to keep its mysteries.
- ThePipeline investigate visit by the MMO’s Director of Marine Licencing to the Port of Dover
- Dover Town Council Vote to Object to Dredging Plans
- Sir Roger Gale MP condemns “cheapskate” plans to dredge Goodwin Sands
- Third Consultation Period is Open
- BBC Radio Kent Breakfast – Disputing Dover Harbour Board’s Suggestions