For residents who live in and around Lydd, shingle extraction by the large aggregates companies has been a fact of life for many years. The process creates and sustains jobs, and provides necessary materials for flood defence work all along the Romney Marsh coast. It is also vital to supporting the building industry, and therefore the creation of new homes. However, there are real impacts for the community, particularly from the noise of the extraction process and the movement of tonnes of materials by heavy lorries, on roads that were not built to support that kind of weight of traffic. That is why the selection of sites for large scale shingle extraction is so important.
I have recently met with the Kent County Councillor for Romney Marsh, Tony Hills, and his predecessor Cllr Carole Waters, who also serves on Lydd Town Council, to discuss the current ‘Options Consultation Document’ for the Kent Minerals and Waste Local Plan 2013-30. There is particular concern about the site marked, M2 Lydd Quarry and Allens Bank extension. Kent County Council estimates that this site has a reserve 3.1 million tonnes of shingle that would be quarried for 12.4 years with the proposed restoration of open water bodies at the end of the process. Cllr Tony Hills, along with Lydd Town Council, and many local residents are understandably opposed to this large amount of shingle extraction over many years and from a site so close to many homes. They have organised a public meeting at the Community Centre in Lydd on Wednesday the 28th February, from 6.30pm until 9pm to discuss the consultation on these proposals. Tony Hills will be representing the concerns of the community at County Hall, and he has my full support in his opposition to these proposals.
There are alternatives to shingle extraction at sites like these, and one is marine extraction along the coast from Rye to Dungeness. Thousands of tonnes of shingle are placed here every year as part of the sea defences, and much of it is washed out into the Channel. Much of this shingle gathers on the eastern side of Dungeness, and is most visible close to the lifeboat station. It would be possible for a dredging vessel based at the port in Rye, to recover this shingle and this would be a far preferable process, without the same disturbances that would be caused by the open quarry sites close to Lydd.
Last week the House of Commons agreed the local government finance settlement. Along with other Kent MPs, I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide additional resources to support Kent County Council, and particularly with the costs of delivering social care support services. I was pleased that the Government have committed an additional £150m for local government, of which £3.9million will be awarded to Kent. The County Council will also benefit from being one of just twelve authorities piloting the retention of business rates by local authorities, which is expected to generate around £25 million next year.