Massive port expansion bid moves closer

A MULTI-MILLION pound port expansion which could create nearly 800 jobs in East Anglia attempts to move a crucial step closer today .Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited hopes to extend Harwich International Port at its site at Bathside Bay.

A MULTI-MILLION pound port expansion which could create nearly 800 jobs in East Anglia attempts to move a crucial step closer today .

Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited hopes to extend Harwich International Port at its site at Bathside Bay. This morning, it will submit three key planning applications to Tendring District Council as part of the massive project.

The ambitious proposals have the backing of Harwich MP Ivan Henderson and Harwich Town Council.

Supporters say a bigger port would boost the local economy which has suffered from high levels of unemployment and a lack of inward investment in recent years.

But environmentalists have warned it would drastically alter the character of the town and damage its tourism industry. Concern has also been voiced about its impact in the Shotley area, on the Suffolk side of the Stour.

If it were to be completed as envisioned, Harwich International Port could become the second largest container port in the UK with its quay length doubled to about 3,000 metres.

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It would enable it to handle up to four deep-sea container ships simultaneously and ensure it would be able to receive all types of modern large container vessels.

The planning applications submitted today relate to the “land-side” elements of the proposals, which come under the jurisdiction of Tendring District Council.

They detail the proposed operational area of the port, the construction of a small boat harbour and public amenity area at Gas House Creek including the partial removal of a jetty area attached to the train ferry berth.

The plans for the port expansion itself are still subject to a public inquiry, which is expected be held later this year. The Government will give the final decision after considering the inquiry report and an inspector's recommendations.

Richard Pearson, the port's managing director, said the development could create 772 new jobs.

“We are fully committed to the development of new deep-water container capacity, both at Bathside Bay and the nearby port of Felixstowe. It is vital that, in order to remain competitive with European ports, the UK creates additional new deep-water facilities to service the latest generation of large container vessels afloat today,” he said.

Harwich MP, Ivan Henderson, agreed the plans were vital to help Harwich and surrounding towns strengthen their economies.

He said: “Before becoming the MP for the Harwich constituency I worked as a docker at Harwich International Port and I had to watch as thousands of shipping and port related jobs were lost to the local economy with a devastating effect throughout the local community.

“I am personally delighted that future generations may have the same opportunity for port-related employment that I enjoyed and, whilst I certainly wish to see the impact of the development upon our town minimised, I am in favour of the development because it will have a tremendous impact in restoring prosperity to our area.”

Leader of Tendring District Council, Terry Allen (Conservative), said: “The council's main policy is regeneration and we approve of anything that will provide jobs for our people.

“We will welcome the expansion of the port because of the regeneration it will mean for Harwich and the whole area.

“The plans will go through the same rigorous process as all others and will be judged on its own merits.”

He dismissed any complaints about the changes and said people had probably been complaining that there were too many boats coming into the port since the time of Samuel Pepys.

Harwich Town Council issued a statement saying it supported the proposed development in principle.

It said: “This support is given on the understanding that Hutchison Ports UK takes every necessary step to minimise the impact of the development upon Harwich and Dovercourt and remain in close liaison with Harwich Town Council to ensure that the concerns of local residents and local organisations are acknowledged and, where appropriate, addressed in a manner that is acceptable to both parties.

n Terry Allen, Conservative, is standing as a candidate in the May elections for Tendring District Council in the Frinton ward.

Ann Evander, (Labour) Anthony Finnegan-Butler, (Independent) Graham Ford, (Labour) Nicholas Tuner, (Conservative) and Brain Whitson, (Liberal Democrat) are also standing.

n Harwich Port will also be holding public exhibitions on the proposals for the development.

These will be held at Harwich International Port, between 6pm and 9pm on April 24,

Harwich Safeway, from 10am to 6pm on April 30.

Unmanned displays will be at Dovercourt Fiveways from May 1 to 8 and at Harwich Library from May 9 to 16.

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