Councils under attack over Bay

TWO councils most closely affected by plans for a huge, deep-sea container port in north Essex have been criticised for not speaking at a meeting on the issue.

By Juliette Maxam

TWO councils most closely affected by plans for a huge, deep-sea container port in north Essex have been criticised for not speaking at a meeting on the issue.

Harwich Town Council and Ramsey and Parkeston Parish Council were invited to give their views at a special meeting of Tendring District Council's development control committee.

It was discussing Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited's plans to build a terminal capable of handling 40,000 containers at Bathside Bay, Harwich.

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But neither council took the opportunity to speak - although they have since defended the reasons why.

Organisations which were represented at the meeting included Shotley Parish Council; anti-Bathside Bay protest groups Starboard, from Shotley, and Residents Against Port Expansion (RAPE), from Harwich; Colchester and North Essex Friends of the Earth; the Fishermen's Association; the Socialist Workers Party; Harwich Chamber of Commerce; and a Hutchison Ports representative.

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Yesterday Jenni Meredith , of RAPE, said: "We feel it was a lost opportunity for democratic process because they (Harwich and Ramsey and Parkeston council representatives) should have come to speak at the meeting."

She added: "It was the biggest planning issue they have had for a number of years."

John Tipple, from Harwich Socialist Workers Party, claimed: "I would suggest it's because our councillors are sitting on the fence because they know that this project has split the town in half."

Fears have been voiced over the possible environmental damage and pollution levels that may be caused by the development - but others say it could bring hundreds of jobs and prosperity to the area.

Andy Morrison, chairman of Harwich Town Council planning committee, said: "There wasn't seen to be any reason to speak because Harwich Town Council's position from the beginning of this application for developing Bathside Bay is we support the principle but we will want to speak to the developers if they go ahead.

"Those comments have already been passed forward to Tendring District Council and were included in the document in front of the committee. All we would have been doing is repeating what we'd provided.

"We just thought all it would have done would take up time to tell them what they already knew."

He added the invitation to speak at the meeting had only arrived two days before, which did not give the council enough time to work out a response.

Ramsey and Parkeston Parish Council chairman Mick Lowe said: "I couldn't get off work. I did ask the vice chairman to go, he must have been busy or couldn't attend."

"My opinion is I would say we have got to put the infrastructure in for Bathside Bay before building it. There's no point building a whopping great port then building the infrastructure later."

A planning inquiry into the application is due to start in April.

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