Ironically, as well as being the final resting place of many ships, the Goodwin Sands create a natural anchorage called The Downs, which is still used to this day by ferries, tugs, cargo ships and even the Border Force as a safe haven in stormy weather.
Of equal importance, the Goodwins are a natural sea defence for the unstable East Kent coastline. They absorb the waves’ energy as they pound in from the north and south. Dredging these sandbanks will lower the level of the seabed and increase the risk of flooding, which has been a regular occurrence over many years.
£12M has been spent by the Environment Agency over the past three years on improving sea defences and beach recharging works. Groynes have been replaced at Kingsdown and in Deal a ‘wave’ wall has been built to protect the seafront and coastal properties. This has all come out of the taxpayers’ pocket.
Dover District Council have also this year announced a £1.5M budget to be allocated to beach recharging at Kingsdown over the next five years, yet they refuse to consider that further dredging of the Goodwins may exacerbate the problem they are trying to address.
Dredging can change the wave height, period and direction of waves’ approach to the coastline, potentially altering the performance of such flood defences. All this recent work and expense could therefore be in vain.
The Environment Agency has confirmed that computer modelling cannot reliably predict changes in wave behaviour; it can only be used as a guide. Yet Dover Harbour Board are relying completely on their surveyors’ assertion that there will be ‘no residual impact’ from the dredging. We saw what happened at Hallsands in Devon 100 years ago and it appears history is again being ignored, to our peril.