In a letter to Kent Council Planning Officer James Bickle, Natural England says that “your authority does not currently have enough information to robustly conclude that the applicants proposals will not have a significant impact on any of the internationally and nationally important nature conservation sites nearby”.
The letter goes on to request that Kent County Council secures “additional information” about noise pollution levels which might be generated from the proposed operations at the Brett site and the impact that this might have on bird species living in the area. The letter also expresses concerns about dust pollution from Brett’s existing and proposed operations at the port saying that “we have been provided with photos of the current operations which appear to show large piles of material which are unprotected by bunds or bays” and that “there is the potential for dust generation from the (new) proposals”. Natural England insists that before approving the proposals KCC obtains clarity about improvement on current and future dust control practices from Brett’s.
In a further setback, Natural England also questions whether or not Brett’s existing operation was ever properly approved by Thanet Council and KCC. They state that the case papers for Brett’s current application include a communication dated 28 May 2010 which “makes reference to the Council Harbour Master (presumably from Thanet District Council) making a report to English Nature (one of the predecessor bodies to Natural England) regarding the batching plant proposal. Unfortunately I can find no record of this report in our files, nor any other correspondence relating to the batching plant. I am therefore unable to provide a view as to whether or not Natural England was appropriately consulted on the batching plant, nor whether we had any concerns with regards to its potential impacts on the natural environment”.This is an issue which I brought to the attention of Natural England last week and also raised with KCC. Both organisations say that they have no record of the Harbourmaster’s report. I also submitted a Freedom of Information request to Thanet Council last week requesting a copy of the Harbour Master’s report. I somehow get the feeling that it won’t be located.
In any event as I wrote on my blog on 18th October “I cannot believe that it was appropriate for Thanet Council to have delegated the task of writing a “report to English Nature with regard to the batching plant” to its Habourmaster. The Ramsgate Port Habourmaster is not qualified in marine environmental science. It is my opinion that he is not competent to produce a report on the environmental impact of a concrete batching plant upon the protected marine habitats adjacent and close to the port. I’m astounded that Thanet Council’s then Head of Major Developments, Doug Brown, seemed happy to accept a report from an unqualified person as “confirmation of how environmental implications (relating to the Brett concrete batching plant) were addressed”. However, this is same Doug Brown who, after leaving TDC, teamed up with his former boss and ex-Director of TDC Planning, Brian White, to advise O’Regan’s on their unsuccessful application to set up a concrete block manufactory at Ramsgate Port.
The right thing to have done in 2010 would have been for Thanet Council and Kent County Council to have insisted that a proper independent environmental impact assessment of Brett’s concrete batching plant be carried out by a suitably qualified marine environment protection expert and that this report would have then been sent to English Nature for them to decide if Ramsgate port was a suitable location for an industrial operation such as this. KCC and TDC should also have insisted that such a report be produced at Brett’s expense, rather than what appears to have been a highly irregular and improper freebie from an unqualified council employee. I will be contacting Thanet Council, KCC and English Nature to find out exactly what happened in 2010 because from where I’m standing it looks as though the existing operation may well be environmentally compromised, which will of course have implications for Bretts new proposals”.
So we now have situation whereby Natural England is far from happy with both Brett’s existing and proposed operations at Ramsgate Port and the possibility that they had, or are likely to have, environmentally damaging implications on the internationally and nationally important nature conservation sites close to the port. Today I have already publically called upon council leader Chris Wells as the port landlord not to permit the Brett’s proposals to go ahead. I repeat this request again and go further – that he arrange a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the setting up of Brett’s concrete batching operations at the port in 2010 and any environmental impact assessment which may have taken place at the time, or before, including the Harbour Master report which was alleged to have been produced. Council Leader Wells should also insist that notwithstanding any previous reports, there should also be a full and proper environmental impact assessment conducted by suitably qualified experts into Brett’s current operations produced at Brett’s expense. If the report finds that current operations are environmentally damaging then Brett’s lease at the port should be terminated. This is what most people in Ramsgate would want and it’s the right thing to do.