Port expansion plans thrown into doubt

THE future of an Essex port expansion has been thrown into doubt after Government plans were questioned by MPs. The Bathside Bay scheme in Harwich is viewed by many as vital for the regeneration of the town's economy and could mean Harwich International Port could becomes the second largest container facility in the UK.

THE future of an Essex port expansion has been thrown into doubt after Government plans were questioned by MPs.

The Bathside Bay scheme in Harwich is viewed by many as vital for the regeneration of the town's economy and could mean Harwich International Port could becomes the second largest container facility in the UK.

But a House of Commons transport committee yesterdaycalled for port applications to be judged in relation to national and not individual needs.

The report said the Government should aim to establish an integrated national policy similar to that of the aviation industry.


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It said the Government's policy since privatisation has been to leave the industry "to its own devices" but states there is a need for its direct involvement in planning, funding and development of the road and rail infrastructure to the UK ports.

It also said the shortage of statistical information about UK port industry was a "disgrace".

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If Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited gets the go-ahead to expand Bathside Bay the company says it will provide up to 2,000 jobs and boost prosperity in the area.

Planning applications have been submitted to Tendring District Council for the port which would double its quay length to about 3,000 metres.

The application is expected to go before a public enquiry next year.

Suffolk Coastal District Council yesterday issued a notice of planning permission at Felixstowe port and the expansion proposal may also need to be decided by a public inquiry.

The multi million pound plans for the enlargement of the southern terminal will mean 1.5 million more containers a year will be handled at the dock.

The redevelopment will involve filling in the Dock Basin, the original port, and removing the empty P&O ro-ro terminal to create nearly 1,000 metres of new deep water quay. A rail connection will also be constructed with a 700 metre rail terminal.

Along with the Trinity Terminal expansion, which is already underway, it will double the port's capacity to 5.2 million containers with almost four kilometres of quays.

The government report follows comm a new lobby group PortsWatch, which has called for the halt of "environmentally-damaging" deep-sea port expansions at Harwich and Felixstowe.

Campaigners against Bathside Bay last nightwelcomed the report, and called for a moratorium on building any new ports in the UK.

Mary Edwards, regional campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth in the East of England said:

She said: "We are delighted that the Transport Committee shares our concerns about the way in which the important decisions on container ports are being handled by this Government, and has outlined some of the ways forward.

"The Government must impose a moratorium on building any new ports, including the four applications currently under consideration, until it develops a national ports strategy."

Duncan Huggett, senior policy officer for the RSPB said: "At last, someone has seen sense. The Transport Select Committee has outlined a framework, which should help ensure the sustainable development of deep-sea container ports in the UK.

"The time has come for Government to stop ducking the issues and to implement the Select Committee's recommendations. We need ports – but not at any price."

Paul Davey, spokesman for Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd said the company did not agree there was a need for a national ports strategy.

"We don't believe there is a need for national ports strategy as such because the ports industry is primarily a private sector industry," he said.

However, he added Hutchison was in favour of the four possible ports in the southeast, including Bathside and Felixstowe, being considered at the same time.

A spokesman for Harwich MP Ivan Henderson said: "At the time of contact, Ivan is unavailable for comment and he will look into this matter at the earliest opportunity."

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