Tough choices as demand increases

IT'S difficult not to feel sympathy with residents of Shotley Gate who face the prospect of being sandwiched between two massive ports.Of course Felixstowe and Harwich ports have been there for longer than most householders – but the proposed new Bathside Bay development at Harwich would raise the port development on the Essex side of the Stour to a new level.

IT'S difficult not to feel sympathy with residents of Shotley Gate who face the prospect of being sandwiched between two massive ports.

Of course Felixstowe and Harwich ports have been there for longer than most householders – but the proposed new Bathside Bay development at Harwich would raise the port development on the Essex side of the Stour to a new level.

So I can well understand the logic behind the formation of the new Portswatch group – the development of ports in this country needs to be considered on a national basis so any opposition to new ports needs to be on a national basis as well.

But while making a noise about port development addresses the immediate issue, we also need to look at the way our society is structured.


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These day we consume a phenomenal amount of things that are made or grown, or mined abroad – and they don't turn up in this country by magic.

Our household appliances are almost all made in the far east – along with our children's toys.

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Our clothes are often made in eastern Europe, the Indian sub-continent or Africa.

And our food comes from all over the world – not just lamb from New Zealand, but fruit from South Africa, potatoes from Egypt, and even runner beans from Kenya.

Is it right that we cart this stuff all over the world to reach us? Just think of the amount of pollution ships produce transporting it.

But on the other hand, our lives would be poorer if we did not have what is produced.

We may think it's a bad idea in principle, but on the other hand we want to browse through an Argos catalogue mulling over which £30 DVD should go with the telly in the kitchen.

Back in the early 1980s there was talk of introducing import controls to ease unemployment – but that really isn't an issue these days.

In the era of free trade it really isn't on to put up barriers – and why should the rich west deny people in China, Africa, or Eastern Europe the chance to earn money by trading with us?

We can't ignore the affect expanding ports has on the environment.

But on the other hand we cannot be Luddites trying to hold back the 21st century.

What is needed is a balance that can accommodate the needs of the environment and those of the economy. But striking that balance won't be easy – and will not please everyone.

SO FAR we haven't been overwhelmed with complaints about Ipswich council's proposal to move to new offices in Russell Road.

But I'm sure they'll come when the new building starts going up.

People will complain about the expense of moving to a new building – and will no doubt claim that the council staff will have "luxurious" surroundings.

We've already heard these arguments about Endeavour House, the county council's proposed new home on the opposite side of the road.

Councils aren't perfect – they do often seem to waste money.

But on both of these moves I can't really fault them. The county got a bargain when it snapped up the former TXU building from that company's administrators and its old buildings were reaching the point where millions would have to be spent on them.

And Civic Centre is going to become dangerous unless a ridiculous amount of money is spent on it – so it makes great sense to move out to a rented building and get the cash from Waitrose for their current site.

But like I said, I'm sure some people will complain!

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