Port enquiry sooner than expected

OCTOBER is today looking the likely start for a public inquiry into a massive expansion scheme for Britain's biggest container terminal.The date – yet to be confirmed – is slightly earlier than planning officers at Suffolk Coastal council were expecting.

OCTOBER is today looking the likely start for a public inquiry into a massive expansion scheme for Britain's biggest container terminal.

The date – yet to be confirmed – is slightly earlier than planning officers at Suffolk Coastal council were expecting.

They were anticipating an inquiry into the scheme to redevelop Felixstowe port's southern terminal not before November, and in all likelihood not until next year.

But behind the scenes progress has been made and port executives will be delighted that the scheme, which they hope to start in 2006, is being dealt with swiftly and smoothly.

Executives at Felixstowe have said there is a "clear national need" for more container capacity.

A decision on the Shellhaven, London Gateway, scheme is due soon, and an inquiry is taking place into plans for a new terminal at Bathside Bay.

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One or both may get the go-ahead, but Felixstowe's scheme is still seen as a favourite for permission as environmentalists believe it will do the least harm to wildlife habitat.

They do have some concerns over potential impact on the Stour and Orwell Estuaries Special Protection Area Ramsar Site and Landguard Site of Special Scientific Interest, with large numbers of wintering waterfowl using the area and the new terminal coming between 90m and 250m in places into the harbour.

But these are not as great as at Bathside and Shellhaven as Felixstowe's will be largely redeveloping an existing industrial site.

The scheme will see Landguard Terminal, the former P&O passenger terminal and Dock Basin – the historic heart of the port – converted into a deepwater terminal able to handle the world's largest container ships.

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