Monday, December 1, 2014

From Major Port Expansion and Transport Infrastructure Schemes Can Come a Dividend for Generations

Channel Tunnel Site Works Pay Back Some Local Community Debt in Environmental Terms
Shipping News Feature

UK – One of the factors always to be considered with any major British civil engineering project is the impact on the environment and often one encounters cynicism, unfortunately often justified, from objectors to any large development scheme. It is however encouraging when one compares projects such as Dawei Port in Myanmar which has seen the eviction of innocent natives and serious doubts over the lack of environmental controls to, such as DP World’s London Gateway. Both major container ports yet the Thames side facility has been created under a spotlight, with clear intent to not only repair any environmental damage, but to create even more habitat for various species indigenous to the area.

The effect of such schemes can only really be judged with hind sight, often years after the earthmovers and dredgers have moved on but from one famous seaside development a tangible asset can now be not only seen but utilised, hopefully for generations to come. Samphire Hoe is the platform at the base of Shakespeare Cliff near Dover which was built using spoil extracted during the construction of the Channel Tunnel. It has developed into one of the most vibrant natural spaces in the UK, with many unusual species of fauna and flora and winning many awards for its management and stewardship along the way.

This week the site has seen the opening of a new Education Shelter, the product of a collaboration between Eurotunnel, owners of Samphire Hoe, the Up on the Downs Landscape Partnership Scheme, and White Cliffs Countryside Partnership, who manage the space. Samphire Hoe is a haven of beauty accessible to all and regularly used by school and other groups for educational and cultural visits. Being exposed at the foot of the cliffs has meant that visits in poor weather conditions in the past could be quite ‘exhilarating’. In July Samphire Hoe won a Green Flag Award for the tenth successive year and the construction of the Education Shelter, which has been funded jointly by Eurotunnel and the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Up on the Downs Landscape Partnership Scheme, means that there is now a fully equipped, all weather education and event space available for school and other groups. Richard Haynes, the Scheme Manager for Up on the Downs commented:

“This fantastic education facility will become a focal point for people to learn about and celebrate the wonderful countryside and heritage of the Dover and Folkestone area.”

The building has been designed to blend in with the natural environment at Samphire Hoe and has been constructed using sustainable building techniques and materials. It is clad in recycled sleepers from the Eurotunnel terminal and will be heated by wood burners using logs cut during expansion work at the terminal in Folkestone. The first group to use the centre came from nearby Aycliffe Primary School, who attended an education workshop hosted by Samphire Hoe Head Ranger, Paul Holt. Speaking after the ribbon was cut to officially open the Samphire Hoe Education Shelter, Eurotunnel’s Commercial Director Jo Willacy said:

“Eurotunnel is delighted to be part of the partnership with Up on the Downs that has built this Education Shelter. We are proud that it will help expand the variety of educational resources available to young people in Kent and especially pleased that schools will now be able to visit Samphire Hoe all year round without fear of the weather.”

The location of the Hoe on the coast, just across the Channel from mainland Europe, means it can be an important area for migrant birds and over 140 species of birds have been recorded visiting the area each year. Livestock, mainly sheep and cattle, are introduced onto the Hoe at certain times of year to assist in turning the area into maritime grassland, a select and rare habitat. Over 200 types of plant now thrive where initially only 31 species were originally introduced, including thousands of early spider orchids.