Dover, whose trust was founded in 1606, is one of a group of significant ports in England and Wales still owned and operated by trusts, many of them centuries old.

Its MP Charlie Elphicke is arguing that instead of being sold to private sector investors, Europe’s busiest ferry port should transfer to a company owned by Dover’s townspeople. At a Saturday launch, details were given of the financing of this rival plan, under which Dover area residents would be invited to pay £10 each to buy shares in a new company, the Dover People’s Port Trust. Mr. Elphicke says that City institutions would be prepared to lend to the new company.

Dover’s MP comments that the plan accords with the prime minister’s Big Society vision – his call for local volunteers, faith groups and other organisations to run many local services themselves rather by government.

More information is given on the DPPT website

Ingenious fudge suggested by transport minister

Philip Hammond has suggested a compromise: the community could own the asset while a third party operates it  and – in similar vein  – an official rather strangely said a foreign investor could take over a port, provided there was sufficient local participation.

The party’s ‘free-market’ and big-society policies in conflict

Advocates of export-led economic growth want to see £400m in construction work on a new ferry terminal on the site of Dover’s derelict western docks to service growing traffic and larger ferries and some observers think that the Department for Transport will follow the lead of the last Conservative-led government and privatise the port, probably selling it to a non-British, private sector investor.

Other sources of information: articles in the Financial Times today and in October 2010