Dover People's Port referendum backed by meeting

Dame Vera Lynn
Image caption Dame Vera Lynn, who sang (There'll Be Blue Birds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover, supports the bid

Campaigners hoping to buy the Port of Dover for the community have won backing for a referendum on the issue.

A public meeting on Thursday passed a motion that residents should be asked whether they want Dover to become a "People's Port".

Dover People's Port Trust (DPPT), set up last year, has begun a £200m bid to purchase the port.

However, Dover Harbour Board (DHB) has said the idea is unrealistic and undeliverable.

Chairman of DPPT, Neil Wiggins, said that it would now waiting for confirmation of the date of the referendum from Dover District Council.

"Once we have that confirmation, the trust will be campaigning vigorously in order to ensure that the maximum number of people in Dover are aware of the People's Port Trust," he said.

Residents have been told they can become members of DPPT for £10.

Funding for the bid, in excess of the contribution from Dover residents, would be raised in the City of London.

DHB, which has run the port as a trust since 1606, asked the government for permission to privatise it in January last year. A decision is still awaited.

Mr Wiggins said a referendum vote in favour of the people's port would not be binding on the government.

But he added: "It would be disappointing if the government were to choose to ignore it.

"The idea of the People's Port of Dover is a totemic emblem of what the Big Society can be."

The People's Port has the backing of Dover's Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke and WWII singer Dame Vera Lynn.

'Unaffordable' plan

But DHB has said the plan is an unaffordable "political instrument" and is neither a commercial nor a business proposition.

"Despite making statements that the people of Dover would 'own' the port - at a minimal payment of only £10 per head - it is estimated that such ownership could only be achieved if each and every one of the people of Dover, 39,000 in all, contributed over £5,000 per head to the trust," it said in November.

"The reality is that financial institutions would be financing the deal."

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