The meeting was addressed by South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, John Walker of the Ramsgate Society, Janet Fielding of Project Motor House and former Thanet Councillor, turned local blogger and campaigner, Ian Driver.
Speaker after speaker highlighted the damage which the expansion of Brett’s concrete manufacturing activities may cause to Ramsgate’s atmosphere and the increased risk of pollution to Ramsgate’s designated marine and coastal protection areas. The speakers all agreed that excessive industrialisation of the port area would have an adverse impact upon Ramsgate’s reviving tourist industry and was likely to deter visitors.
Craig MacKinlay told the meeting that he was opposed to Brett’s plans and called for a review of the Ramsgate port’s future uses, with a focus on non-polluting light industry, the traditional fishing fleet and non-polluting leisure use such as a modern marina to complement the Royal Harbour. He said that he had written to the Secretary of State for Local Government, the Leader of Kent County Council and the Chief Executive of English Nature opposing the plans and demanding a full public hearing. John Walker read to the meeting a letter of opposition from the Ramsgate Society which had been sent to Kent County Council who are reviewing Brett’s proposals and Janet Fielding explained some of the technical planning matters which people could include in their letters of objection.
Ian Driver pointed out that Kent County Council’s Minerals and Waste Plan offered Brett’s operation at Ramsgate port strong protection from any challenge and objection. He also said that Thanet Council’s 2014 Maritime Plan stated that the council was in favour of expanding aggregate processing at the port. He criticised council officers and elected councillors, from all parties, for failing to ensure that there was proper and extensive public consultation about the Mineral and Maritime plans in 2014 when they were being decided on. He denounced Thanet and Kent County councils’ culture of secrecy and behind closed door decision making. And condemned has undemocratic “the deliberate exclusion of the people of Ramsgate from having a say about policies which will have a major impact on their lives”.
|Ian Driver speaking photo Keith Ross|
To audible gasps of surprise Driver announced that in response to a Freedom of Information request he had submitted to the South East Local Economic Partnership, he had received documents which revealed that Thanet Council had submitted a £4.17 million bid for Government funding, plus a £2million contribution from Thanet taxpayers, to massively expand industrial activities at the port.The funding would help to pay for an “alongside” berth at the port which would improve the unloading of bulky cargo such as aggregates for Bretts concrete making operation. It would also be used to help to fund the development of a large freight hub to service the port on, or close to, the former Manston Airport site. Finally the bid would help to pay for a massive expansion of Ramsgate Port’s capacity to accommodate heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) from the current annual capacity of 500,000 HGVs to a staggering 1millon HGVs a year.
Said Driver “these plans were developed in secret by Thanet Council officers and a tiny cabal of senior politicians without anyone knowing. Yet again there has no public consultation with the people of Ramsgate about whether they want a massively industrialised and polluting port with 100 of HGVs traveling to and from the port every day and night, or whether they would prefer instead a non-polluting leisure focused port which will create hundreds of jobs for local people and increased business and investment in the local economy”. Although Thanet’s plans were not put forward to the Government for approval this year, Driver says that reliable sources have informed him that the plans remain a top priority and will be submitted as a funding bid at the earliest opportunity.All of the audience speakers condemned Thanet and Kent County council’s secrecy in drawing up plans, policies and funding bids in secrecy and for deliberately failing to consult the people of Ramsgate about the intensive over-industrialisation of the port. All of the audience speakers insisted that Ramsgate’s port and seafront should be used for leisure, rather than heavy industrial purposes, which would develop and promote a sustainable and vibrant visitor economy in the town. It was agreed to hold another public meeting on 1 December and to set up a fighting fund to secure legal advice on stopping Brett’s expansion at the port.
A copy of Driver’s FOI response is attached to this press release.Dear Mr Driver
Thank you for your request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000.
The Port of Ramsgate bid is a request for £4.17m of LGF3 funding to match with £2m from Thanet District Council for the construction of a new double-deck ro-ro berth at the Port of Ramsgate. The Port is a municipal port owned and operated by Thanet District Council, and this investment represents the first phase of a three phase expansion strategy to increase the Port’s capacity and resilience. This will enable the Port of Ramsgate to add to the South-East’s strategic capacity to service increases in projected cross-Channel ro-ro traffic of 45% expected through the South East’s Channel ports over the next 20 years (in Road Goods Vehicles terms an increase from 3.17m vehicles in 2015 to 4.6m by 2035, i.e. an additional 1.43m vehicles). (what about £200million expansion of Port of Dover won’t this deal with the growth in vehicle numbers. No mention of London Gateway Port ability to absorb increased vehicle number – surely there is no need for Ramsgate Port expansion it will be a massive waste off taxpayers money? – comments Ian Driver)
Ramsgate Port currently has the capacity to accommodate up to 500,000 HGV’s per annum. This investment will increase that capacity to 1 million HGV’s per annum. At 58 miles, Ramsgate is the same distance via the M2 from the QE2 Bridge as Dover and offers an opportunity to meet future freight demand by linking with the continental road and rail network via the Port of Calais. The port also offers cost effective routes to Northern Europe via Dunkirk, Ostend, Zeebrugge and Vlissingen.
This first phase of infrastructure investment will improve the Port’s handling capacity, particularly for unaccompanied freight vehicles. The proposed works for the first phase will develop a new modern double deck ro-ro berth which will increase capacity, and by offering an alternative to the existing double deck ro-ro berth will also build in resilience which cross-Channel operators often look for.
This on-port investment will be key enabling infrastructure capable of leveraging second phase public and private sector investment in the development firstly of an on-port new alongside quay for the Port’s existing aggregates cargo and bulk cargo expansion and secondly an off-site freight logistics hub at Manston Business Park; and if services and traffics develop to the level that is possible, then a third phase seaward port expansion.