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Dredging rights dumped

MATERIALS - Hanson gives up rights to take aggies from two areas off the south coast after east Channel win

CONSTRUCTION materials giant Hanson is to rein back its stash of off-shore aggregate deposits.

It has given up dredging rights to two areas of sea bed off the south coast and Thames Estuary after the Government gave it the all clear to start harvesting deposits in the English Channel.

These applications will allow sand and gravel beds to be dredged in the eastern English Channel, between Beachy Head, Sussex, and Dieppe in France.

Most aggregates are dredged at depths of 20 m, but these large sand and gravel deposits sit at 40 m, and the extra volume of material is expected to dwarf those of other licensed areas.

With the new deposits due to come on-line next year, Hanson has relinquished its hold on a 8.25 sq km area of sea bed off Maplin Sands in the Thames Estuary, and a further 5 sq km section of the Channel off the Isle of Wight.

Ian Selby, Hanson Aggregate Marine's operations director, said the move was a bid to reduce the amount of sea bed that it was holding on to. He said: 'As part of our drive toward sustainable development, we have returned these areas and we will be concentrating on fewer licence applications.' The two licensed areas will be returned to the Crown Estate, which manages the sea bed around the UK.

As part of the agreement, the Estate will not allow any other dredging companies to work the areas for the next 10 years.

It has been encouraging companies to give up rights to dredge in an effort to reduce the amount of sea bed controlled by marine dredging companies.

The Estate wants to avoid the 'land banks' that onshore quarriers hold, where operators gain permission to extract aggregates from an area but do not work them, preferring to keep the area in reserve for future use.

Ian Reach, marine operations advisor at environmental body English Nature, welcomed the move.

He said: 'We are pleased to see Hanson returning these licences and we encourage other marine aggregate companies and sea bed developers to take this responsible attitude towards their redevelopment plans.'