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Port expansion objector revealed

PUBLISHED: 15:50 27 May 2002 | UPDATED: 12:00 03 March 2010

THIS is the man who stands between 300 new jobs for local people, or standstill for Britain's biggest port.

Former aircraft engineer Bob Sayers is the man who is trying to stop the port of Felixstowe's £80 million expansion project.

THIS is the man who stands between 300 new jobs for local people, or standstill for Britain's biggest port.

Former aircraft engineer Bob Sayers is the man who is trying to stop the port of Felixstowe's £80 million expansion project.

He is the only objector to the port's plans to create two more deep-water berths for the world's biggest ships, a scheme which is important to the national economy and future prosperity of the Felixstowe area.

If Mr Sayers wins this classic David versus Goliath contest, his giantkilling act will not only rob many families of the chance of a job, but will bring the port's expansion to a standstill – and harm its ability to compete with foreign rivals.

The public inquiry into port owner Hutchison Whampoa's proposals starts tomorrow at Ipswich Town's Portman Road ground and could last five days.

Mr Sayers, 60, of Stourside, Shotley Gate, has spent two years preparing to take on the might of the port's legal team, who are expected to take the first two days of the inquiry proving their case for a harbour revision order.

"You sort of lose track of the days. I have had breaks but it's always in the back of my mind. It's been a horrendous preoccupation and it can get stressful. I've had headaches, stomach troubles, all sorts of things," he said.

His objections to the 40-acre expansion include noise pollution, transport and environmental issues, including fears over the effects on tides and coastal erosion dredging out a deeper channel to create another large container-ship berth.

But he says his main concern is the noise residents will have to suffer both during construction and after.

In the decade he has lived at Shotley Gate, he has noticed an increase in the noise generated by the container port across the water.

"The ships are dramatically noisier. At 5am there are containers banging. At night when there's a big ship in you can hear a roaring noise all the time. On a couple of nights I've got up to see what's going on it's been that loud," he said.

"If I lose and stay here I have a year's pile driving 12 hours a day, six days a week to look forward to and the increased noise of the ships.

"But I'm not just doing it for myself. At the end of the day I can walk away but I talk to people who have lived here for 20 or 30 years and have seen the docks extending. Some say they can no longer sleep in their front bedrooms because of the noise."

While he is the only official objector at the inquiry, others are hoping to speak.

Rod Lambert, of the Starboard group set up to oppose development of Felixstowe and Bathside Bay, Harwich, said: "We are going along to give our views and support what Mr Sayers will be saying. There are a number of us hoping to speak if the inquiry inspector allows us."

Rachel Jackson, corporate affairs officer for Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd said: "There's a pressing need for this facility but we don't wish to discuss Mr Sayers' objections in detail as this is the purpose of the inquiry."

The port wants to build 270 metres of new quay for two new deep water berths and backup land for container storage. There will also be a third railhead which will help double the amount of cargo moving in and out of the port by train.

The port originally had seven objections to the harbour revision order and ten representations from various groups and individuals.

Negotiations succeeded in settling all concerns – including those of the RSPB English Nature, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, and Environment Agency – except those of Mr Sayers.


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