Port enquiry begins

LAWYERS, consultants and a variety of experts today began to thrash out the future of Felixstowe port – and decide its biggest development for 20 years.

LAWYERS, consultants and a variety of experts today began to thrash out the future of Felixstowe port – and decide its biggest development for 20 years.

As a six-week public inquiry into the £100 million-plus scheme got under way, port chiefs stressed again how vital the project is to not just Suffolk, but the country's economy.

The inquiry – costing tens of thousands of pounds – began with evidence from a series of port executives and officers outlining the proposals to redevelop Landguard, the old P&O passenger terminal and Dock Basin.

Inquiry inspector Michael Ellison was given details of employment and economic benefits, the national need for the scheme, alternatives which had been examined, and expected impact on roads, noise and air pollution.

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Port chiefs say the expansion, which will increase the terminal's capacity to 5.2 million standard-boxes a year, is expected to create nearly 1,500 new jobs – 621 port jobs and 860 in dock-related employment – within ten years of opening.

It will create a new terminal 100 metres further out into the harbour, demolishing the flour mill and former P&O passenger terminal, and filling in the Dock Basin, the oldest part of the port.

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The deepwater quay will be 1,350m long, able to handle three ultra large container ships and a smaller one simultaneously. There will also be a new eight-track rail terminal.

Speaking before the opening of the inquiry at the Hotel Elizabeth Orwell, Richard Pearson, managing director of Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited, said:

"There is a well recognised need for more container terminal capacity in the UK.

"This development will enable the Port of Felixstowe to berth more of the latest generation of large container vessels simultaneously, securing our position as a major European hub, and ensuring that UK importers and exporters enjoy the full range of direct-call liner services.

"Together with our plans to develop new facilities at Bathside Bay in Harwich, to which we remain fully committed, these developments will secure the position of the Haven Ports as the major gateway for the international trade upon which the country depends."

Paul Davey, port corporate affairs manager, said the success of the port was essential for both the national and regional economy.

"The port contributes some £70 million to the local economy in wages alone, and over 12,500 people in Suffolk derive their livelihoods from the port and related industries," he said.

"The reconfiguration of Felixstowe South will help to secure the future employment of all those that currently rely on the Port for their livelihoods."

The inquiry will also deal with the enormous impact the development will have on the Felixstowe peninsula and its people.

What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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