Battle for Bathside - inquiry opens

THE arguments for and against a multi-million pound container port have been aired on the first day of a public inquiry.The battle for Bathside Bay in Harwich began with objectors and supporters of the massive project presenting their views to inquiry chairman Ken Smith.

THE arguments for and against a multi-million pound container port have been aired on the first day of a public inquiry.

The battle for Bathside Bay in Harwich began with objectors and supporters of the massive project presenting their views to inquiry chairman Ken Smith.

Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited (HPUK) wants to expand Harwich International Port and create Harwich International Container Terminal in adjoining Bathside Bay.

The plans, which were first revealed in October 2000, have divided the town


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with opponents and supporters of the scheme fiercely fighting their corners.

If the scheme goes ahead, the expansion would mean a further 1,400m of quay, 11 ship-to-shore gantry cranes and capacity to deal with the largest container ships.

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The public inquiry at the Trade Car Services building off Stour Road, Harwich, is expected to last five months.

Both sides were given a boost yesterdaywith the news that the Government had turned down an application for a container terminal at Dibden Bay near Southampton. After a public inquiry an inspector recommended the scheme be refused and this was backed by Transport Minister Tony McNulty.

The failure of the application could mean more chance of success in Harwich

as the Government accepts additional container capacity is needed.

However, the scheme was turned down largely due to the environmantal impact it would have had on the area.

In an opening statement to the inquiry Timothy Straker, QC,on behalf

of HPUK, said extra container port capacity was needed in the UK to meet

future economic demand.

"Every proposed port development must be justified on its own merits and the

promotors take the view that this proposal has substantial merit and can be

justified on its own merits," he said.

"As a proposal the container terminal cannot be seriously criticised, it is

plainly of quality. Furthermore it is exceptionally well located for the purpose to be served and the need required to be met."

The inquiry was told that both Tendring District Council and Essex County

Council supported the proposal subject to certain conditions, which included

a proper evaluation of the environmental concerns.

John Hobson, QC, representing Essex County Council, said the council was

concerned there was no strategic policy framework set out by the Government

to guide the decision making about container ports.

"There is some concern that in disregard to Essex County Council's plea the

Government has apparently chosen to reach a decision on Dibden Bay on an

individual basis.

"Obviously that decision will have to be considered very carefully to see whether it does fill the policy vaccum by providing clarification of the Government's position regarding national need, where and how it should be meet," he said.

Both Essex County Council and the Highways Agency voiced concerns about the safety of the A120 with extra port traffic and called on HPUK to fund

improvement work.

Harwich and Dovercourt Sailing Club would be moved from its current home in Gas House Creek to a small boat harbour created if the port expansion goes

ahead.

Graham Wright, speaking for the club, said it would be "very happy" to be housed there but the time between the old site being taken over and the

club being rehoused should not be too long or the viability of the club would be challenged.

"The small boat harbour should be constructed first," he said.

Jenni Meredithspeaking for Residents Against Port Expansion (RAPE), said the development would impact on residents on both sides of the River Stour.

"The noise pollution is going to change the whole character of the area,"

she said. "Light pollution has the potential to cause sleep deprivation and

chronic stress.

"The visual intrusion of 40ft cranes towering over historic buildings would

give an industrial backdrop to the conservation areas of Harwich and

Dovercourt."

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