Referendum looming on port expansion
A REFERENDUM could be held about the controversial development of Bathside Bay in Harwich. A petition organised by the campaign group RAPE (Residents Against Port Expansion) has been gathered, demanding a parish meeting be held.
By Annie Davidson
A REFERENDUM could be held about the controversial development of Bathside Bay in Harwich.
A petition organised by the campaign group RAPE (Residents Against Port Expansion) has been gathered, demanding a parish meeting be held.
The move comes in the wake of a five-month public inquiry which will decide whether Harwich International Port can expand into adjoining Bathside Bay to form a multi-million pound container port.
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A planning inspector heard months of evidence from protestors and port supporters and is not expected to make a decision until next year.
Because six electors have signed the petition, Harwich Town Council is obliged to call a parish meeting.
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The protestors are then expected to call for a parish poll and if the majority of the people at the meeting vote in favour of this the referendum will be held.
It is estimated to cost the council in the region of £5,000.
Electors will be asked to answer yes or no to the question: “Are you opposed to the development of a deep sea container port at Bathside Bay?”
Jenni Meredith, spokesman for RAPE, said: “The poll is to measure public opinion now that the community are better informed of the facts, having been through the public inquiry process.
“It is to democratise the Bathside Bay debate, which throughout the public inquiry process has been seen by many as exclusive and threatening.
“Having a poll will enable everyone in the parish an opportunity to voice their honest opinions without fear of repercussions.”
A parish meeting was held last year but it was decided not to call for a poll until the public inquiry had been held.
Mrs Meredith added: “This is the first action of the post inquiry campaign where RAPE, Friends of the Earth and other community groups will work together for a more democratic and inclusive future.
“The campaigners plan to distribute leaflets, posters and hold public meetings.
“And this is likely to be the first of a series of polls as Ramsey and Parkeston, Manningtree and Shotley could follow suit later this year and early in 2005.”
Harwich mayor Andy Morrison said last night: “Basically the names [on the petition] require the council to call a parish meeting.
“The clerk will report that to the council at tomorrow's meeting and basically the laws we work under clearly say that if six people call for a parish meeting Harwich Town Council has got to put that into place.
“We will discuss when and where, subject to whatever advice the clerk gets from the legal officers at the district council.”
The full meeting of Harwich Town Council will be held today at the town's Guildhall in Church Street, as soon as a planning meeting,which begins at 6.30pm, is completed.