With our area’s role as a gateway of international maritime trade, it could be easy to forget that it is also home to one of the most special and famous marine sites around, the Goodwin Sands.
The Goodwin Sands SOS group has done a fantastic job of ensuring we don’t forget – and that we cherish this special habitat. The unusual sandbank, lying only a few short miles from Deal, is undoubtedly a site worthy of protection.
It is the last resting place of airmen whose battles raged over our skies, as well as light-vessel men who perished in 1954 when their boat, a type of lighthouse, wrenched free from its moorings. We will never forget their bravery and sacrifice. We shouldn’t forget their final resting place either.
The Sands also contain a diverse range of sea life. Blue mussels, ross worms, shellfish, the protected Thornback Ray all make the most of the rare sand-on-chalk platform in the middle of the sea. It contains special rest and relax areas for Grey Seals, and much more besides.
The Sands have a special place in our own cultural history – stories abound of Deal residents in years past rescuing, or thieving, from people and boats shipwrecked in and near the sands. From Nelson’s fleet to the modern day, it is part of a natural area of shelter from the sea’s stormiest heights.
It’s for these reasons that I am trying to secure better environmental protections for special marine sites. So that they can have similar protections to special sites on land. Just last year, the Goodwin Sands was designated a marine conservation zone. That gives it protection most similar to a green belt designation on land – a ‘blue belt’ equivalent.
That’s a great start and I want to go further, to strengthen that protection. I want to see a new class of ‘special marine interest’ sites created with Goodwin Sands at the top of the list. The new classification would provide similar protections to Sites of Special Scientific Interest on land – with a much higher threshold for commercial activities like aggregates extraction.
I recently met with the Environment Secretary to discuss the idea – and I will keep working with them and marine-minded colleagues in the months ahead to take it forward. I also met with the Goodwin Sands SOS group. I will be seeking further engagement with Government agencies around the dredging work that is already planned, so that it can be approached as sensitively and sensibly as may be possible.
Our marine environment is so important – especially to coastal communities like ours. Whether it’s trade, tourism, or a simple day out with the family, the sea is in the heartbeat of our community.
We cannot take it for granted. We must ensure it is protected for every person and every generation – so that where we live continues to remain such a special corner of our nation.