Calls for Port to abandon expansion

CAMPAIGNERS are today stepping up the battle over Britain's ports – and calling on the owners of Felixstowe's to abandon one of their expansion schemes.

CAMPAIGNERS are today stepping up the battle over Britain's ports - and calling on the owners of Felixstowe's to abandon one of their expansion schemes.

Green lobby group Friends of the Earth said Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd's proposals to build new container terminals at Felixstowe and Harwich will devastate the wildlife and habitat of the harbour and river estuary.

It wants the company to abandon its Harwich scheme and focus on Felixstowe a mile across the water instead - and save Bathside Bay.

Friends of the Earth said the two developments were roughly the same size in container capacity, but the Bathside Bay project would destroy 69 hectares of protected mudflats.

The group's East of England regional campaign co-ordinator Mary Edwards said by withdrawing, Hutchison could avoid the need for an expensive and lengthy public inquiry and prevent a devastating impact on the estuary and local area.

"Hutchison's have conceded that the development of Bathside Bay will damage the environment," she said.

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"They now have an ideal opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to minimising that damage by focusing their developments on Felixstowe South.

"Expansion on this side of the estuary will make the most of existing facilities without damaging precious wildlife sites."

She added that the situation highlighted the need for a national ports' strategy for the UK. Friends of the Earth is a member of PortsWatch, which launched its manifesto for a national strategy for ports last week.

The Bathside Bay scheme will have the capacity to handle 1.7 million standard-sized boxes a year, while the Felixstowe south scheme will add £1.5m boxes to bring the port's total capacity to 5.2m.

A public inquiry into the Bathside plan is set to begin on April 20.

Hutchison Ports believes both Felixstowe and Harwich developments are necessary to offset the country's shortfall in container capacity and because they will create a container hub already served by shipping channels deep enough for the world's biggest ships and good inland transport links.

The Felixstowe project is a brownfield site which will take little land from the estuary and should have little impact on the environment.

But the national need for the schemes - and those awaiting approval at Dibden Bay and Shellhaven - is doubted by groups like Portswatch.

Felixstowe's owners expect a shortfall in capacity in around eight years, but Associated British Ports has said crisis point could be reached in two years.

ABP's claim has been attacked as "scaremongering" by Friends of the Earth and the RSPB, who say the Dibden Bay inquiry was told there would be no severe adverse effects for UK trade if the project was rejected.

WEBLINKS: www.foe.co.uk

www.portoffelixstowe.co.uk

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