A despatch by Susie Mesure for the Radio 4 program “From our Home Correspondent” – 27th November 2016.
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.
The Goodwin Sands SOS group held an Act of Remembrance today, outside Dover Harbour Board’s headquarters overlooking Dover harbour. The dignified service including a two-minute silence was lead by actor Neil Stuke, a staunch supporter of the campaign.
It should also act to remind Dover Harbour Board that many people feel very strongly that the graves of mariners and service personnel lying in the Goodwin Sands should not be disturbed.
Wreaths were laid in memory of all the aircrews who lost their lives in and around the Goodwin Sands during times of combat and all the mariners who perished when their ships foundered on the Sands.We remember especially the two thousand men who died in one night during the Great Storm 26th November 1703.
Report from Meridian News
Individual crosses were laid in memory of the 21 pilots and crew from the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm who crashed into the Goodwins during 1940 and who were never able to be recovered. We also remember those who also paid the ultimate price from Germany’s Luftwaffe. May they all rest in peace forever and their relatives be assured they will not be disturbed.
PILOTS LISTED AS MISSING IN THE GOODWIN SANDS AREA, MAY – NOVEMBER 1940
|Sergeant Arrowsmith||No. 139 Squadron|
|Sergeant Richard Bate||No. 254 Squadron|
|Sub Lt Geoffrey Bulmer||Fleet Air Arm|
|Flying Officer Graham Chambers||No. 610 Squadron|
|Squadron Leader Cooke||No. 65 Squadron|
|Flt Lieutenant John Cunnigham||No. 603 Squadron|
|Sergeant Davidson||No. 139 Squadron|
|Flying Officer Douglas Gamblen||No. 610 Squadron|
|Pilot Officer Keith Gillman||No. 32 Squadron|
|Leading Aircrewman Harrison||No. 254 Squadron|
|Sergeant Frederick Hawley||No. 266 Squadron|
|Squadron Leader Hendry||No. 139 Squadron|
|Sq. Ldr Philip Hunter DSO||No. 254 Squadron|
|Flying Officer John Kerr Wilson||No. 610 Squadron|
|Pilot Officer Frederick King||No. 254 Squadron|
|Flight Lieutenant Mark Kirkwood||No. 603 Squadron|
|Sergeant James Love||No. 254 Squadron|
|Flying Officer Lukaszewicz||No. 501 Squadron|
|Sergeant Richard Roskrow||No. 254 Squadron|
|Pilot Officer Roswadowski||No. 151 Squadron|
|Pilot Officer Zenker||No. 251 Squadron|
You only have one more week in which to lodge your objection(s) to the MMO about the proposed dredging of the Goodwin Sands!
This week is all about remembering those who died in conflict and our campaign is trying to ensure that the resting places of those who perished in and around the Goodwin Sands are left alone. Forever.
As Dover Harbour Board hold and attend Remembrance Services in and around Dover, we are all well aware that they are planning an activity which will disturb the marine graves of the very same drowned mariners and brave RAF pilots.
Even if you don’t attend a Remembrance Service yourself, or observe a two minute silence on Friday 11th, please do spare ten minutes of your busy life to join us in protecting the graves of those who gave their lives for us.
Please email: email@example.com quoting reference MLA/2016/00227 before November 16th 2016.
There are plenty of other reasons for objecting which can be found listed on this website under the ‘Objections‘ tab. There is also a link from there to send in your response. Don’t forget to quote the reference number!
The 2nd Public Consultation Period ends on Nov 16th. We have one last chance to make Dover Harbour Board take notice of the enormous public objection to their greedy dredging plans!
We need as many people as possible to join us for an hour on Friday morning this week (11th November) from 10:30 to 11:30.
Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to join us for this crucial event. Please share this event and invite your friends too! THE GOODWIN SANDS NEEDS YOU NOW!
The campaign has had a fantastic week! The petition has been gathering momentum daily and by the time we delivered it to Number 10 Downing Street the total number of signatures stood at over 12,000. It was a very surreal moment standing on that iconic doorstep and I was immensely proud of all that the campaign and our supporters have achieved together.
Media coverage from BBC South East Today, ITV Meridian and BBC Radio Kent have all contributed in spreading the word far and wide. Let’s keep on getting it out there!
It is now vitally important that as many people as possible write with their concerns and objections to the MMO before November 16th. It doesn’t have to be long, or scientific; just write from the heart about why you personally don’t want the Goodwin Sands to be dredged.
Look at the details on our site for how to respond.
Listen and watch out for us in the news on Monday (31st October 2016) from 6:30am! BBC Radio Kent and BBC South East Today are both covering us delivering the campaign petition to Downing Street, which has now reached a massive 11,840 signatures – with an increase of 933 in the past 48 hours!!
And don’t forget to write your second letter of objection before November 16th 2016. It can be as brief as you like, but just write it as every email or letter counts!
Dear Supporters, as a result of the high level of public opposition we have generated through the SOS Campaign, the MMO opened a second pubic consultation phase which ends on the 16th November. This consultation phase is an opportunity for everyone to write/email again to the MMO to express their objection to DHB’s inadequate responses to the questions raised during the first public consultation phase.
We have plans for a final push on the Campaign as the deadline approaches and need to raise some funding to pay for the materials we need to create a high profile impact. Can you please help us by donating a pound or five to help us win this Battle of the Sands and STOP THE DREDGE? We are hoping to raise £200. The precise nature of our plans has to remain confidential at this point, but all will become clear in the near future.
Please pledge a small donation and bring it to the Astor Theatre where James has kindly agreed to collect and hold the funds for us.
Many thanks again for your support and don’t forget to send your second objection email to the Marine Management Organisation on email@example.com before Weds 16th Nov. Please quote reference: MLA/2016/00227
The Guardian, 19th January 2016
Plan to extract sand and gravel to further develop Dover port will endanger marine life, say conservationists
A stretch of sandbars and shoals off the Kent coast home to seals, famous for shipwrecks and proposed as a marine conservation zone is at risk from dredging, conservationists warn.
Dover Harbour Board is considering dredging for sand and gravel from Goodwin Sands, which lies around six miles out from Deal, to expand cargo facilities and build a marina at Dover port.
But groups including the Kent Wildlife Trust, Marine Conservation Society and British Divers Marine Life Rescue have all expressed their concern at the extraction, which could start as soon as August.
Although the area has been dredged before for Dover port and Ramsgate up the coast, the amount of sand and gravel would be more than a third of the total amount extracted previously, between 1976 and 1998.
Goodwin Sands has also been under consideration for the last five years as a marine conservation zone (MCZ), which nearly doubled in number in England over the weekend.
An important site for grey and common seals to “haul out” on the sand to mate and rest, it provides foraging grounds for birds and the seabed is home to blue mussels and ross worm reefs. The worm is associated with a greater variety of marine life.
If the shifting sands of the area are confirmed as an MCZ next year, as conservationists hope, any dredging would need to undertake additional assessments to those needed without the protection.
Stephen Marsh, operations manager at the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, which rescues seal pups up and down the Kent coast, said he was concerned at the prospect of dredging at Goodwin Sands.
“Common seals give birth to their pups out on the sandbanks; there are animals being born in July and possibly August. August is peak moulting time. The adults need to come out of the water then and spend as much time on the sand as possible. If they dredge at that time, that’s of concern.”
Bryony Chapman, marine policy officer at the Kent Wildlife Trust, said although the area had been dredged before, the amount being proposed now was a large volume.
“It’s still recovering from that previous dredging and we wouldn’t want it taken right back again. It’s an important site for seals. There are hundreds of seals that haul out there – it’s a significant number of animals.”
She added that the trust had met with the port and hoped they would seriously consider alternatives.
Dr Jean-Luc Solandt of the Marine Conservation Society said he was concerned at the impact dredging could have on species, and potential harm to the substrate they live on.
But the port argues the area has been dredged before and would be capable of recovering.
“Goodwin Sands is a dynamic, highly mobile system and therefore the marine communities impacted by dredging at this location would be expected to recover well following disturbance,” says a report on the proposed scope of an environmental impact assessment of the dredging, commissioned by the port.
Conservationists said they were not opposed to the expansion of the port but the sand and gravel should be obtained from a less sensitive site.
For its part, the port argues taking the material from Goodwin Sands is a good local option and obtaining materials from further afield would result in higher CO2 emissions and NOx pollution, as well as road congestion.
A spokesman for the port said: “The Port of Dover is currently considering options, including Goodwin Sands, for sourcing aggregate for the approved Dover Western Docks Revival development, which includes a cargo and distribution centre, transformed waterfront, job opportunities for local people and greater space within the Eastern Docks for ferry traffic.
“We are actively engaging with a wide range of conservation organisations and authorities prior to any decision being made. Goodwin Sands has been identified as a good source of aggregate by the Crown Estate. We are in the process of undertaking a thorough environmental impact assessment and have been consulting with consultees to ensure their concerns are fully taken into account.”
The proposed dredging would take place over an 11.6 sq km area on the south part of the sands, in two phases, the first starting in August this year and ending in November 2017, and the second from March 2022 to August 2022.
Goodwin Sands is a notoriously dangerous stretch of coastal waters, with thousands of shipwrecks thought to lie there. In the great storm of 1703, 90 vessels were believed to have sunk, including a notable warship, the Stirling Castle.
Please pledge today to our CrowdJustice fundraising page so we can submit a claim for a Judicial Review of the Marine Management Organisation’s decision to grant a dredging licence for the Goodwin Sands.
This could be our last chance to Save our Sands!Pledge to our CrowdJustice campaign