Dredgers Counter Claims of Environmental Damage

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Byline: By Martin Shipton Western Mail

An end to offshore sand dredging could lead to quarrying in some of Wales's most beautiful landscapes, environmentalists have been warned. Conservation groups have expressed mounting concern about dredging of the South Wales coast, believing it is denuding beaches of sand. One group, the Porthcawl Environment Trust, produced postcards from the 1950s which, they say, show that Rest Bay was much sandier then than now.

This week Gary Victor, who chairs the trust, went on board the City of Cardiff dredger during discussions with managers of UMA, one of the companies that extracts sand from the Bristol Channel.

UMA area manager Richard Hastings said, 'The vast majority of sand dredged from the Bristol Channel is used in the Welsh construction industry and is absolutely vital. If sand wasn't dredged, it would have to come from elsewhere, possibly from quarrying in the Brecon Beacons National Park.'

In 2005, 1.6m tonnes of sand was dredged from the Bristol Channel, of which 1m tonnes were landed in South Wales, the rest in South West England.

Nash Bank - off Porthcawl - was the source of 750,000 tonnes of this sand, nearly 50% of the total.

Sand from Nash Bank is used in the construction industry in South Wales, mainly as an ingredient in concrete and mortar. It is used in the construction of hospitals, schools and houses.

During the trip, UMA resource manager Dr Andrew Bellamy made the following points:

Being locally sourced and supplied by ship into the centre of urban areas, the sand represents the best environmental option, reducing the need for long distance road transport and therefore avoiding unnecessary lorry miles and CO emissions

If the 750,000 tonnes of sand from Nash was sourced from elsewhere, this would add 37,500 20-tonne lorry loads to the roads - 75,000 round trip journeys

The South Wales dredging industry provides direct employment for nearly 200 people and indirectly supports 1500 jobs. This does not take account of the thousands of Welsh construction jobs that would be affecting should dredging stop. The industry adds over pounds 9m a year to the Welsh economy

Even if a substitute supply could be sourced in England, it would increase sand prices by about 50% because of the high cost of transporting such a bulky commodity. …