Day of protest at container port plan

By James HorePROTESTERS opposed to a plan for a major container port in East Anglia have staged a day of action ahead of the opening of a public inquiry into the scheme.

By James Hore

PROTESTERS opposed to a plan for a major container port in East Anglia have staged a day of action ahead of the opening of a public inquiry into the scheme.

The Bathside Bay development in Harwich would be the second biggest deep-water container port in the UK if it is given planning permission following a public inquiry, which is due to start tomorrow.

Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd wants to expand its operation at Harwich International Port by building the deep-water facility at Bathside Bay.

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The new docks, which it said would lead to an influx of jobs for the town, would be capable of handling up to four deep-sea container ships simultaneously.

Campaigners opposed to the project held a day of action in Harwich on Saturday as they tried to raise awareness of the £300million container terminal, which they described as a “monster”.

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Friends of the Earth and Starboard - the Shotley residents action group - invited residents and visitors to go on boat trips that highlighted the areas around the Stour estuary that they claimed would suffer the most adverse effects if the container port is built.

The journey from Ha'Penny Pier looked at the size of the quay and cranes at nearby Felixstowe port, the Shotley Peninsula and the Bathside Bay area where the development would be.

Mary Edwards, the regional campaigns co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth, said it was vital for people to take part in the public inquiry, whether they were for or against the development.

“We want people to understand more clearly what they are possibly letting in through their back door,” she added.

“This is going to be a monster development, right on their doorsteps - and it will be pretty much 24/7 for 365 days a year.”

She claimed noise, air and light pollution from the new container port would be “profound” for people in Dovercourt and Harwich.

Tim Hines, from Starboard, said: “People do not realise. They say they had no idea what the implications and enormity of the project are.

“Politicians see this as an easy fix to the town's employment problems, without much work - there is a need for more diversity, you cannot have a mono-dependent local economy.

“We realise this is a struggle of David against Goliath proportions, but there are weaknesses in Hutchison's case, which we feel has an inadequate environmental assessment.”

However, a spokesman for Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd said: “We are hopeful and we think the benefits of the development outweigh the disadvantages. But that is for the public inquiry to examine and for the Secretary of State to decide upon.”

If given the green light, the project would involve the construction of the container port and small boat harbour in the Gas House Creek area, the partial demolition of grade II listed train ferry gantry at Gas House Creek and the creation of compensatory habitats in Little Oakley.

It is thought the development could provide as many as 1,700 jobs for an area that suffers with high levels of unemployment - but people living in Harwich and Dovercourt said there were concerns the jobs would go to people who did not live the town.

Dick Mayhew, an artist, of Maria Street, Dovercourt, said he did not have much hope for increased employment.

“Historically, the port has done very little, if anything - you have a place which is very, very poor. Nothing has ever been provided to the town by the rich shipping companies,” he added.

“There is no political power in the local population, what has really been gained from hundreds of years? You have just got to look at the place to see that.”

n The public inquiry into the proposed Bathside Bay development starts tomorrow (tues) at the Trade Car Services Building, off Stour Road, Bathside Bay, Harwich.

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