Anyone who listened to the radio 4 programme Costing The Earth broadcast last week surely can be left in no doubt that marine aggregate dredging is extremely harmful to our marine environment and holds significant responsibility for the massive increase in coastal erosion around our shores. In Europe there is no doubt of its harmful effects, indeed the Dutch who it is acknowledged are the masters of coastal defence, simply will not allow aggregate dredging in waters less than 20 meters deep and within 25 Km of the shore, ironically they fulfil their requirement for aggregates by buying them in from British dredging companies. Contrast this with the UK Government who actively encourage dredging within 6Km of Great Yarmouth. DEFRA were recently asked to comment on the Eurosion document which addresses such issues and highlights North Norfolk among other areas. Their comment was :
“We are considering the reports from the Eurosion project. If it emerges that they have significant new evidence then we will clearly give this careful consideration. However it is our understanding that the project has not conducted any new field work and is probably relying on previously published material.”
So it would appear our Government, particularly the responsible Minister have been extremely economical with the truth. His answer to the question, does offshore aggregate dredging have an impact on coastal erosion? Is always very careful, very guarded, short and quite meaningless: “There is no evidence.”
Why do you say there is no evidence Minister?
Have you deliberately avoided looking for it?
Is it being suppressed by Government that they may continue to receive their approx. £1,000,000 per week revenue from off the Norfolk Coast (more if other areas are included)?
Do you have evidence which has been buried because some fool somewhere has decided it is not in the national interest to allow it into the public domain?
Has there been a deliberate policy to suppress evidence?
Is it Blair, Beckett, Morley, Prescott (whose department licences and permits dredging) or the civil service withholding any previously published evidence?
Why is the DEFRA Chief Engineer a director of one of the leading consultancy companies used by Government in the process of granting dredging licences?
The whole DEFRA approach and response to coastal erosion and its associated socio-economic problems is seriously flawed, extremely unfair, totally biased and is a huge disservice to this nation in both economic and physical terms.
Since meeting with Elliot Morley in his Office on 13th May 2003 I have spoken with officers from three different maritime authorities. Privately they agree with many of our views, publicly they dare not express those views for fear of being ‘drummed out’ by DEFRA as it would appear happened in North Norfolk some years ago.
The whole set up and system stinks, the deeper I look, the more I learn, the smellier it gets.
Stop the dredging now and start addressing some of the problems it has caused.
Finally to return to Costing The Earth it was, shall we say, interesting to hear Dr. Ian Selby’s pathetic attempts to justify marine aggregate dredging (he is employed by one of the largest dredging companies) saying that offshore dredging is “benign” in its effects! Come on Dr. Selby you appear to be making the same mistake as DEFRA in believing that we area all stupid out here in the real world! Obviously we wasted a great deal of money on somebody’s education.
It is becoming increasingly evident that marine aggregate dredging is about as benign in its effects on the marine and coastal environment as a Kalishnikov bullet is when hitting the flesh of its intended target!
Malcolm Kerby (13 April 2004)