Calls for public inquiry after big waves stop boats using Dover’s new marina

  • Watch: ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw reports on the waves stopping boats from using a purpose-built marina on the Kent coast

There are calls for a public inquiry into a multi-million pound new marina at the Port of Dover.

The marina is currently lying empty because port officials have deemed the waters too choppy to moor boats.

Campaigners have described it as a "disaster", with one resident asking “How did they get it so wrong?”

Despite appearing finished in 2019, port officials have judged the waves to be too high during bad weather.

The pontoons where the boats would be tethered float on the water, so too much swell can cause a safety issue and risk damage to vessels.

A computer-generated image of how the marina was supposed to look, complete with boats. Credit: Port of Dover

One local councillor is now calling for a public inquiry to establish exactly how the flawed design was signed off, and how much it has cost.

Cllr Edward Biggs, Dover District Council (Labour), told ITV News Meridian that “concerns were raised” with the original design but they were dismissed by the harbour board.

He has described the decision as “complete arrogance on their part”.

  • Watch: Councillor Edward Biggs:

The new marina is an integral part of the £250m Western Docks Revival project. It is designed to one day hold the privately-owned craft currently birthed in the existing marina.

The Port of Dover is currently applying for permission to build a 70-metre steel wave barrier in the harbour, to try to shield the entrance.

It is the second attempt to remedy the problem, with a smaller 14-metre ‘inner wave screen’ completed last year.

Unlike the previous barrier, the proposed ‘outer wave screen’ would not be attached to the existing dock or pier but be built on the seabed.

Planning documents show the location of the new 70-metre ‘outer wave screen’ close to the entrance of the new marina. Credit: Harbour Revision Order

Campaigners opposed to dredging of the seabed off the Kent coast at Goodwin Sands say the problems with the tidal modelling for the new marina has raised questions about similar work done for the harbour board.

Joanna Thomson is a campaigner at the group ‘Goodwin Sands SOS’.

She told ITV News Meridian: “It calls into question the competence of Dover Harbour Board’s consultants.

"From our point of view, this is really worrying, because it’s the same consultants who have done the modelling for the dredging of Goodwin Sands.”

  • Watch: Joanna Thomson, Goodwin Sands SOS:

One of the consultants involved in the tidal modelling is HR Wallingford.

The company’s Director of Engineering, Ian Cruickshank, said: “HR Wallingford is working with Dover Harbour Board to help assess the wave conditions in Dover Marina and improvements that could be made.

"The Port of Dover has now submitted a planning application (Harbour Revision Order) to implement these improvements.”

The wider Western Docks Revival project has already seen a new pier open to the public and plans for a new hotel on the ‘Marina Curve’ approved at the end of 2021.

The new marina is the centrepiece of a wider redevelopment of a large part of the Port of Dover.

Officials refused to say how much the new barrier will cost, or when they hope the new marina will be able to host boats.

The Port of Dover declined our request for an interview, but in a statement, a spokesperson said:

“Despite the challenges we have faced, firstly as a result of business uncertainty related to Brexit, and later with COVID-19, good progress has been made on the new marina, including the construction of access roads, car parking, a large public area, ablution facilities and particularly addressing the swell situation that was shown to occur very occasionally during specific weather conditions.

"We constructed the inner wave wall as a first step, which delivered significant improvement.

“The Port of Dover has consulted with the community throughout the whole Western Docks Revival Project, including our berth holders, the statutory Port and Community Forum (PCF) and more widely with organisations such as the RYA, from which there has been positive dialogue. The matter of swell has been well publicised and shared with these stakeholders.

“We are delighted that there is still great enthusiasm for the move to the new Marina and are equally excited that planning permission has recently been granted for the Marina Curve development, meaning those to be based at the new Marina will be able to enjoy new bars, cafes and restaurants at the waterfront in the years ahead.

“We continue to work towards a successful transition to the new Marina.”

The Department for Transport declined to comment on calls for a public inquiry into the marina development.

A public consultation on the latest plans for a new wave screen closes on the 22 January 2022.