Goodwin Sands activists take legal action to protect 'war graves'

Goodwin Sands
Image caption The 10 mile (16km) long sandbank lies about six miles off the coast of Deal

Campaigners opposing plans to dredge a sandbank off the Kent coast have begun legal action to protect what they describe as "war graves".

Marinet wants to stop Dover Harbour Board (DHB) dredging up to four million tonnes of sand from Goodwin Sands for use in construction at the port.

It says the area is the "final resting place" of aircraft and ships from both world wars and should not be disturbed.

The Port of Dover said the measure was vital for the town's regeneration.

Marinet - a national marine conservation organisation - wants the whole of the sands to be designated a "controlled area" so all ships and aircraft can be protected without the need to pinpoint their location.

Its lawyers have made a direct appeal to Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon to intervene in the case.

The board has applied to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) for a licence to dredge the site.

A Port of Dover spokesman said: "Protesters need to be clear that 99.7% of the Goodwin Sands will be untouched."

Image caption Sand and gravel will be taken from Goodwin Sands and used on construction projects in Dover

It said the sands had been dredged on numerous occasions since World War Two and the dredging was "vital to deliver the sympathetic regeneration of Dover, awaited for over 70 years".

But law firm Bindmans LLP said it had made a 16-page submission to Sir Michael urging him to use his powers to protect the site under the 1986 Protection of Military Remains Act.

Solicitor John Halford said: "If the remains of dozens of British soldiers were known to be buried throughout a forest, no-one would contemplate granting a licence to locate a quarry there."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The final resting places of those who bravely gave their lives serving our country must be treated with respect and disturbing those sites is not allowed. Having become aware of proposals to dredge areas of Goodwin Sands, we have reminded the Dover Harbour Board of their legal responsibilities."

Marinet director David Levy said: "We want the dredging application declined and the area properly protected."

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