Dredging to resume at Wells today but concerns of a ‘disaster’ remain for the future
Businesses can breath a sigh of relief at the news that dredging operations at Wells will resume today after being suspended for more than two months over a licensing issue.
But they have only been dealt a temporary reprieve, and concerns remain for the future.
Wells Harbour Commissioners have been granted an emergency dredging licence from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to allow dredging to be carried out for 15 days.
But Wells harbour master Robert Smith said if a full licence was not granted it would be a 'disaster' for the local economy and jobs would be lost.
A petition started by Wells town councillor and postman Mike Gates and signed by hundreds of people in support of dredging at Wells is to be sent to the MMO.
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Dredging is necessary to enable fishing boats and vessels working at the £1bn Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm to operate in and out of Wells.
It is carried out regularly and Wells Harbour Commissioners apply for a licence to last two years from the MMO.
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But there has been no dredging at Wells since early April, when the harbour commissioners' last licence ran out.
The harbour commissioners applied for a new licence in April last year, but it has not yet been approved as the MMO has environmental concerns.
Mr Smith said: 'The emergency licence will get us out of a muddle, but if we don't get the full licence it will be a total disaster for many businesses in Wells and further afield.
'Nine jobs would be lost from Wells Harbour Commissioners and there would no doubt be jobs lost elsewhere.
'It would put an end to the Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm and we would not be able to promote Wells harbour to other wind farm investments.
'We've never had hold-ups like this before. We've sent the MMO three annual reports since 2009 showing that the dredging has no detrimental impact on the environment.
'We're hoping to get everything resolved and the full licence by July, but nothing is certain.'
A spokesman for the MMO said: 'We understand the economic benefits associated with the continuation of operations at Wells Harbour; however, we must determine the development and any potential environmental impact of activities in line with relevant legislation.
'On June 13 we approved an emergency licence for limited dredging to be carried out and enable operations at Wells Harbour to continue in a safe manner.
'We are committed to completing our assessment and determination of the full application as quickly as possible and continue to work closely with Wells Harbour commissioners to resolve outstanding queries.'
The MMO has confirmed that the delays are not due to any correspondence with the Royal Yachting Association or Wells Dayboat Association.