Local MPs, Dover Town Councillors and members of Goodwin Sands SOS recently met Ms Trudi Wakelin of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in London to hear Ms Wakelin’s account of her visit to the Port of Dover in July 2017.
Goodwin Sands SOS had raised concerns of possible bias last October with Ms Wakelin when she visited the Port unaccompanied, took no Minutes of the meeting and did not meet other stakeholders interested in the dredging licence application.
The meeting at the House of Commons was chaired by Sir Roger Gale and also attended by John Tuckett, CEO of the MMO, MPs Craig Mackinlay and Charlie Elphicke, Dover Town Councillors Callum Warriner and Peter Wallace and David Steed, Fiona Punter and Joanna Thomson of Goodwin Sands SOS.
Ms Wakelin told the meeting how, as the newly appointed Director of Marine Licensing, she was prompted to visit Dover Harbour Board, who have applied for a licence to dredge 3 million tonnes of aggregate from the Goodwin Sands, following a meeting with Tim Waggott, the then CEO of DHB at a conference earlier in 2017.
Ms Wakelin assured those present in London that the visit was an informal opportunity for her and Mr Waggott to gain a better mutual understanding and that there was no issue of bias towards Dover Harbour Board. She confirmed that she and Tim Waggott did not discuss the controversial dredging licence application during her visit although they did visit DWDR to see its progress.
Ms Wakelin also explained that she had been brought into the MMO to improve the MMO’s reputation, which hitherto had been considered remote, impersonal and a ‘black hole’ for applications and the marine licensing process as a whole. She outlined the procedure involved for each submission including the fee structure and risk level rating.
Applications such as Dover Harbour Board’s that involve Environmental Impact Assessments attract fees up to a maximum of £999,000 and are risk rated Red, with Black being a recently introduced innovation. GWS SOS has asked the MMO which ratings applies to Goodwin Sands and are currently awaiting a reply.
Ms Wakelin confirmed that following a licence decision a full report is published detailing how the MMO arrived at its decision and the application is handed over to the appropriate regional office. It is this office’s responsibility to ensure that any conditions attached to the licence are adhered to and they have the authority to impose any sanctions as necessary.
Decisions on licence applications are all based upon evidence-led information received from the applicant and on advice given by the MMO’s statutory consultees, which include Historic England, Natural England, the Environment Agency, Cefas and JNCC.
The full Minutes of the meeting can be read here