The importance and significance of the work currently being undertaken in the western side of the port for the future of the town and the port was emphasised by Chris Talbot, Communications Manager of Dover Harbour Board, when he addressed Dover Rotary Club this week (7th) as the club’s last guest speaker of the calendar year.
Reminding his audience of the importance of the port, not just to the local economy but also vital in the National context, he explained it was responsible for some £122 billion of trade passing through it representing some 17% of the UK’s trade in goods. Operational 24/7 364 days a year it oversaw 60 ferry sailings daily as well as 10,000 trucks a day passing through and in a year some 5 million vehicles are transported across the Channel using Dover. There had been a 30% growth in freight in the 3 years between 2013 and 2015 and each succeeding year since had seen record growth. In addition to the ferry operations Chris reminded those present of the importance of the cruise industry, the cargo operations as well as the Marina facilities and the property portfolio of the Board.
His prime area of responsibility was the western side of the harbour and with the aid of a Powerpoint presentation illustrated with up to date aerial photographs taken by drone technology he explained the massive investment that was currently being made was needed to ensure the long-term capacity of the port. An ethos of investment in the future was anchored around the ability of the Board to borrow some £200m out of which would come increased cargo facilities, a brand-new marina, leisure and recreation facilities and, crucial for Dover, jobs. There had been a long lead in to the works being undertaken because of the planning, financial and impact aspects of the scheme. The present piling operations, involving some 700 tubular and infill piles, should be finished by the end of the year or early January and Stage 1 of the works was demonstrating the importance of the investment to the local economy as 200 people were employed on site in various activities 42% of whom were from within the East Kent region with 14.4% female employees and 4 apprentices were included. 33% of those working were from the immediate local area and the spend locally into the economy was £39.2m in two years.
Many interesting finds had been made during the currency of the present stage of works especially where the Navigation Channel was being created through to the Wellington Dock. Basements of former properties in this area of the port had been uncovered and various artefacts removed by archaeologists, while further excavation had revealed a C19 seawall and timbers from an earlier age. Eventually the inner dock would be filled in to create a large space for development of a range of facilities. One blockage to success was the campaign to prevent sand from the Goodwins being used for infill the result of which could add some £25m extra to the cost and that was critical because it could tip the balance on the total proposals of the Board meaning various elements could not be undertaken. Once the development in all its stages was complete there would be over 1000 metres of new promenade to be enjoyed by the public, a wide range of facilities and the hope was for a bridge connection between the investment of the Board and the town to enhance both the St James’s potential as well as the Board’s investment. Chris indicated the Board was mindful of the complaint in the past by certain members of the public about the contribution if any the Board made to the town and the local economy and the hope and expectation was that the successful conclusion of the massive investment project now in full swing would demonstrate beyond doubt the Board’s clear commitment not just to the town but also to the port’s ongoing national importance.
Introduced by Past President Peter Sherred, a former two times President of Dover Chamber of Commerce, who expressed the hope that with the Harbour Board’s development proceeding apace as well as the St James’s site development and further developments at Whitfield after decades of disappointments and inertia the future of Dover could be optimistic and assured Chris was offered a vote of thanks by David Fisher Vice President of the club.