Bathside Bay plans pass crucial hurdle

IMPASSIONED campaigners last night begged councillors to block plans for a massive industrial development in the historic maritime town of Harwich.But despite their pleas, members of Tendring District Council's development control committee gave their approval to the proposed Bathside Bay project, paving the way for the construction of the second biggest deep-water container port in the UK.

By Roddy Ashworth

IMPASSIONED campaigners last night begged councillors to block plans for a massive industrial development in the historic maritime town of Harwich.

But despite their pleas, members of Tendring District Council's development control committee gave their approval to the proposed Bathside Bay project, paving the way for the construction of the second biggest deep-water container port in the UK.

The application not only includes the building of gigantic new docks - capable of handling up to four deep-sea container boats simultaneously - but also the creation of large 'compensatory' habitats for wildlife displaced by the facility.

A public enquiry into the plans will open next month and now presents the only obstruction for the final green light.

A Tendring council report noted the proposed scheme fitted the location well, was well-designed and appropriately landscaped and could bring as many as 1,700 jobs to an area with high levels of unemployment.

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However, addressing the committee, Jenni Meredith of pressure group Residents Against Port Expansion (RAPE) accused councillors of neglecting their duties as protectors of a site of special scientific interest.

She also accused council officers of misleading the committee and claimed that developer Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited would stop short of nothing to achieve "global domination".

Ms Meredith asked the councillors: "How can you sleep at nights in your lovely Frinton and Brightlingsea homes knowing we in Harwich will face 24 hour disruption?

"We know the noise will adversely affect 20,000 people. How can you sleep at night knowing you have acquiesced in that?"

John Noble, of the Harwich Fisherman's Association, claimed his colleagues had not been properly consulted.

"The fishermen are very distressed, because you don't seem to be taking any account of them.

"Fishermen are not given the credibility they deserve. The two rivers here are the nursery rivers.

"These proposals benefit Hutchinson, but they do not benefit Essex," he insisted.

And John Titchmarsh, of Titchmarsh Marina (Walton on the Naze) Limited, said he was concerned about the effect proposals could have on the internationally renowned Walton Backwaters Special Protection Area (SPA) and Hamford Water.

He warned that the impact of the new development could cause both areas to be consumed by the North Sea.

"There have been no consultations of people like myself," he said. "I stand to lose 50 jobs and probably a £5million investment because of this," he told councillors.

However after receiving officer advice that the concerns raised either had been or could all be satisfactorily addressed - if not at the district level then at a further public inquiry due to examine the proposals - committee member Peter Patrick proposed the motion.

"I think one of my first comments is that I don't think this council can be accused of is ignoring people's views," he said.

"We listen to all views, but we can not always agree with everybody. That does not mean they are ignored.

"This report is 33 pages long. We have had two long reports prior to this, which I believe deal with all the issues we as planning authority have to deal with. I refute the claim we have ignored things," he added.

"We know there are issues about noise and about how many houses will need extra sound insulation to reduce noise.

"This is the balancing act we as a council have to make. We have to be satisfied that, on balance, the public interest outweighs the objections to the scheme."

He added: "I cannot and do not accept that democracy has gone out of the window."

All of the committee members voted in favour of the Bathside Bay development with the exception of one abstention.

The plans have also been slammed by many people living in the Shotley area, who say they will suffer from noise and light pollution if the development goes ahead.

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