Over 1250 people sign petition to keep Port open
Mon 24 Jun 2013
An independent petition started by Wells Town Councillor and postman Mike Gates in support of an application by the Wells Harbour Commissioners (WHC) for a licence to dredge the channel to Wells Port has been signed by 1259 people in two weeks. It is addressed to the MMO (Marine Management Organisation) which is due to decide on a WHC licence application. A decision is expected in July and was originally due in March.
Petition organiser, Wells Town Councillor Mike Gates says:
“This is a vote that Wells needs jobs, and jobs with real prospects. Wind energy developments offer us that but only if our Port is open for business. Tourism and rich retirees do bring jobs but cleaning, seasonal catering, care-work and gardening take you only so far. Our children and young families need better opportunities to keep our community alive. Youngsters need careers, and the wind energy industry offers work and training in engineering, marine skills, project management, communications and a host of better paid occupations. We must be a working Port, not just a playground. It’s fantastic that so many people from Wells and beyond, agree with this”.
Wells and the surrounding area in North Norfolk has reaped huge benefits in jobs, business, training and education since the development of an Outer Harbour allowing wind farm companies, led by Norwegian owned Scira, to operate from the port. The dredging is essential for this. Some 898 have signed hard copy petitions around the town and 361 signed online at http://chn.ge/15HsKz5 (using www.change.org).
Over 100 of the online signatories added their reasons for signing. One Wells resident wrote simply: "Because Wells is a community, not a museum, and communities only work if there is work "
Robert Smith, Harbour Master who has worked in the Port for over 20 years says: “We welcome all visitors but they, like local people, mostly value the Port of Wells for its fishing and work boats not as a marina. Scira has invested millions of pounds in Wells and built it’s Operation and Maintenance base here. If our Outer Harbour can continue to operate, other developers can follow. In 350 years of operation the Harbour Commissioners have seen many changes in our fortunes but we have always been first and foremost a working Port and we are determined that shall continue. Renewable energy brings jobs while benefiting the environment. It’s part of a better future.”
Robert Smith also points out: “The Outer Harbour was opposed by some, saying it would damage our environment and drive away tourists but the opposite has proved true. Rare Little Terns have found a new refuge there, and our fishermen also benefit from the dredging, as they have told the MMO. We are confident that common sense will eventually prevail and a licence will be granted. We thank all those who signed the petition, along with Wells Town Council, our MP Norman Lamb and North Norfolk District Council, who have all been supportive in these anxious weeks, when many jobs are on the line”
Dredging started in 2009 and had to stop in April this year, when WHC’s licence expired and MMO unexpectedly did not grant a new one applied for. MMO has now said that in March “we could not determine at that time whether or not any potential impact(s) to the marine environment were occurring”. This followed three years of dredging during which WHC had provided annual Ecological Reports which had all been accepted by MMO, and found no evidence of environmental damage, and, ten months of giving information to MMO to support the new licence application. Further evidence has since been sent to MMO by WHC.
Repeated objections to the dredging have been made to the dredging by a small minority of recreational sailors in Wells.
A time-limited Emergency Licence was granted in June because the channel was filling with sand.