Harwich: United demand for port funding

POLITICAL leaders from all parties have joined forces to call on David Cameron to intervene after it emerged an Essex port will lose out on a share of �60million funding because it is not deprived enough.

Hopes had been high that Harwich could become a major centre for manufacturing and maintaining wind farm turbines.

But the town’s Bathside Bay area missed out on the money to be used to improve the infrastructure of ports to make them more attractive to offshore wind farm developers.

Areas in the north of the country, such as Merseyside, Teesside, Tyneside and Humberside – which are listed as “Assisted Areas” – will secure the funding ahead of Essex because they are more “disadvantaged.”

Tendring District Council leader Neil Stock said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the decision.

Harwich was being excluded from a “huge chance to boost employment,” he said.

Mr Stock and Essex County Council leader Peter Martin wrote a joint letter to Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne and Business Secretary Vince Cable in which they argue their case and invite them to visit the town.

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And now all four leaders of the opposition groups at Tendring council have written in a similar vein to Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to support the bid for some of the cash to head for Harwich.

David Lines of Tendring First, Les Double of Labour, Harry Shearing of the Liberal Democrats and Michael Talbot, who is an Independent, have taken the fight to 10 Downing Street.

They warned that unless urgent action is taken now, Harwich would not come out of its current “doldrums” until 2030.

The letter states: “Harwich has been in serious economic decline for a number of decades.

“From its years as the major port linking the railways of England to Northern Europe, with huge volumes of passenger and freight traffic, the advent of cheap air travel and of containerisation were the first significant nails in the coffin of the local economy.

“Now, even with cruise ships using Harwich as a point-of-call, the world just passes the local community by, rapidly entering and leaving the town and the district, with no discernable economic benefit to its residents.

“Worse, a recent forecast suggested that, even with a regenerated UK economy, Harwich would only start to climb out of its current doldrums in 2030.

“That, as I am sure we can all agree, is far too long to wait – which is why this bid is so vital to our area, as it will be the catalyst for broader-based economic expansion.”

Mr Stock had already warned the Government that the town is suffering from significant deprivation, above-average unemployment and was in need of is regeneration and job opportunities.

“This is something we all agree on 100 % and we will work together on this for the benefit of both Harwich and the District as a whole,” he said.

“The aim is to make sure that the Government realises just how important this bid is to all of us and that we will not give up on it.”

It is not clear at this stage whether the Government will be able to change policy to include Harwich in the bid process.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change “Assisted Areas” – which include a number of potential coastal manufacturing locations - have potential for development as major offshore wind manufacturing facilities.

A spokesman said: “We believe that offshore wind manufacturing in these areas can support economic growth and make a significant contribution to rebalancing the UK economy.

“This does not in any way rule out development taking place at other sites, and not all offshore wind related developments will require financial assistance from Government.”