It's great news that we have received confirmation that the first community directors will now be appointed to the Dover Harbour Board. The decision by the Marine Management Organisation shows how far we have come in five short years. Five years ago the port was set to be sold off to the French or whoever by the previous Government. All that was required was a flick of the Minister's pen and centuries of history would all have been over.
After our powerful community campaign, we didn't just stop the port sell off plan. We won important reforms. The port would have the powers it needed to raise money for investment in the future. Looking at the waterside we can see how badly that investment is needed. We can also see the progress being made on the Western Docks Revival as decades of neglect start to be rolled back. The port also agreed to set up a community fund for the benefit of the community. Already it has been active and I hope it will gain greater funds in due course. This is important as a complaint of many was that the port did too little to benefit the town. Now it does more.
Yet the most important plank of port reform was that the community should be represented in the boardroom. It is essential we should have community directors we can have trust and confidence in. Because we need to ensure there is an ever closer partnership between the port, port businesses and the community. The two community directors that are being appointed, Neil Wiggins and Samantha Parker, are well qualified and the best people for the job.
For decades there has been tension in the port-community relationship. This needs to change and the only way to change it will be by bringing together the port, ferry companies and the people. This is what the People's Port was all about. If the port was to be sold then we wanted to buy it to drive that partnership. The end of the privatisation threat did not make the need for a true partnership go away.
Only if we all work together will we see the kind of Dover we want to build. Only then will we get the investment, have the sense of common purpose and the community led port that is required to change Dover.
We have before us a great opportunity. A chance for the unity and common purpose that is required to change Dover forever. To make our town again a jewel in the crown of the nation. A place people want to visit. The first sight of England that makes us proud and impresses visitors from the lands overseas. The challenge lies with us all to grasp this opportunity and forge the partnership that will change Dover forever.
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