Pressure group leans on port expansion

CAMPAIGNERS are today urging Tony Blair and his government to stop Felixstowe port's proposed expansion – until a national need for it is proved.A new group called PortsWatch claims building deep-sea container ports is damaging the environment and disrupting communities, increasing traffic problems, air pollution and skyglow.

CAMPAIGNERS are today urging Tony Blair and his government to stop Felixstowe port's proposed expansion – until a national need for it is proved.

A new group called PortsWatch claims building deep-sea container ports is damaging the environment and disrupting communities, increasing traffic problems, air pollution and skyglow.

It wants the government to come up with a strategy for port development to prove need and detail where and when expansion should take place rather than looking at every project proposed individually.

Today Richard Pearson, managing director of Felixstowe's owners, Hutchison Ports (UK), said there would definitely be a need for extra cargo capacity.

"We believe that there is no question that additional capacity will be needed in the UK by 2008," he said.

"However, we agree that, from an environmental perspective, and to ensure that the country benefits from the right facilities in the right place, a strategic decision should be taken on the creation of facilities on currently undeveloped sites in the south and east of England, taking all the alternatives into account."

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Felixstowe port's argument is that its plans to redevelop its southern terminal with 1,350 metres of quay able to handle 1.5 million extra standard-sized boxes a year is environmentally-friendly because it uses a brownfield site.

But there are fears the extra cargo will in the next 20 years generate around one million extra lorries on the A14 on the Felixstowe peninsula, adding to noise, traffic congestion and danger.

PortsWatch – an alliance of eight environmental and transport organisations – said the development of Shellhaven, Bathside Bay and Southampton would all take environmentally-sensitive areas, while Felixstowe's expansion would also see 70 acres of sub-tidal habitat lost due to extra dredging.

Duncan Huggett, senior policy advisor at the RSPB, said it was "utterly bizarre" that the government had no overview for ports.

"After all, they have an overview for roads, housing, aggregates and airports – why not for ports, which are the most important form of transport for imports and exports," he said.

"Internationally protected wildlife sites will be lost if these applications are approved. The government does not even know how many container ships we need room for and only when that is known can ministers decide on new port applications."

Mary Edwards, regional campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "If all of the current proposals were given permission there would be gross over-capacity leading to unnecessary environmental destruction. The government must go back to the drawing board and produce a real national ports strategy."

n What do you think – should Felixstowe port's expansion be delayed until a national policy is decided? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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