I can understand why both Labour and UKIP councillors have rushed headlong into the industrialisation of the port. It’s been losing money hand over fist for ages with total, externally audited, loses of £7.6 million over the past 5 years. But, instead of looking backwards for old-fashioned, dirty and polluting solutions to Ramsgate Port’s problems our councillors should be looking at modern, sustainable solutions which support and enhance Ramsgate’s and Thanet’s growing tourist economy which was valued at £293 million last year. That’s why I’ve been arguing for a long time that we should be looking at leisure uses for the port. And that’s why although, as a lifelong socialist, I may disagree with him on a lot of things, I support Ramsgate MP, Craig MacKinlay, 100 percent when he says that the port should be turned into a leisure hub. Craig you are spot on!!
But despite what Craig and I think and, much more importantly, despite what a rapidly growing number of Ramsgate residents are thinking, Thanet Council and its political bosses and senior officers remain steadfast in their determination to industrialise the port. And that determination has got me thinking that it’s not just Brett Aggregates and their plans for the port that we need to worry about, but the possibility that there might be other plans afoot to industrialise the port. Perhaps even a plan for Ramsgate Port to become colonised by the waste management industry.
The reason I’m suggesting this possibility is because, I’ve been studying the Kent Mineral and Waste Local Plan (KMWLP). This massive 213 page document got my brain ticking over and I began to see all manner of connections which suggested to me that Ramsgate Port was an ideal candidate to become a major waste management hub. Now I might be way off the mark but I’m going to set out my thoughts in this article and conduct further research to see if I can locate evidence to support what, I believe, is a very strong possibility. So let’s begin at the begin
The KMWLP, which was approved by Kent County Council, in summer 2016, explains how KCC plans to dispose of the growing volume of household and industrial waste produced in Kent up until 2030. It also explains how KCC plans to dispose of the growing volumes of domestic and industrial waste produced in London and which is exported to Kent for disposal. It made immediate sense to me that Ramsgate Port, with its newly refurbished berths and its massive unused land capacity could play a significant role in the processing of London’s waste. Loaded on to ships from the capital’s waste transfer stations the rubbish could be brought to Ramsgate, unloaded, sorted, recycled and the residue sent for incineration at a power generating Energy from Waste (EfW) plant located at the port or nearby location such as Richborough or maybe the former Manston Airport site. The risks involved in setting up such a hub would be low. The private waste management sector would happily pay for all the facilities including the EfW plant and employ the staff. In exchange for using the port they would pay rent to Thanet Council.Now this might all sound like speculative guess work and at this stage yes it is. But there are other bits of evidence I have come across which suggest to me that turning the port into a waste management hub is a distinct possibility. Fist Central Government is backing EfW as the best way to significantly reduce the traditional land-fill solution to waste management. It produced a guidance document for local authorities, “Energy from Waste”, in 2014 which encourages councils to support, through planning processes, the building of more EfW plants. Second there is only one EfW plant in Kent and the KMWLP says that several more will have to be built in the county to deal with the increasing volumes of waste. Third Thanet Council also appears to be actively planning to develop an EfW plant in the district. In the Budget 2017-18 Report which will be discussed by TDCs ruling UKIP Cabinet next week, it is stated that “reviews are underway to generate new and additional income. These reviews are… power generation on council owned sites”. This may well be power from solar panels but it could equally be power from an EfW plant fed by rubbish delivered by ship to Ramsgate Port and by lorries from elsewhere.
Finally, 2 senior members of TDCs Operational Services Department which manages Ramsgate Port - Director Gavin Waite and Head of Operational Services Geoff Dunne - have both previously worked in senior positions in the private waste management industry for Veolia and Serco. More likely than not, they will both have a good understanding of the EfW process and an appreciation of the potential of Ramsgate Port as a waste hub feeding the EfW plant. These bits of evidence lead to me conclude that Thanet Council and its UKIP political leadership is almost certainly planning on transforming Ramsgate Port into a major waste management hub. I will of course be following this up with Freedom of Information requests and will let you know what the reveal.
Most people I know would be aghast by the prospect of Ramsgate Port becoming a waste management hub. Such a development would despoil and blight the town’s seafront and massively conflict with Thanet’s and Ramsgate’s growing and successful visitor economy. It could easily destroy many more jobs than it creates. Whatever our political differences might be we should all be working together to resist any efforts by Thanet Council to turn the port into an industrialised, polluting, eyesore. The port should be a leisure hub not a rubbish hub.