THE GOVERNMENT has finally given the go-ahead for a £1.5bn container port to be built on the site of the former Shell Haven refinery at Thurrock.
The decision follows two years of negotiations.
The redeveloped Shell Haven, to be known as London Gateway Port, will be the largest container port in the UK, handling 3.5M TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) a year when fully developed.
Port operator Dubai Ports World (DP World) won planning consent after agreeing to fund local road improvements to cope with the anticipated huge increase in traffic volumes.
It was feared that moving containers between the port, London and the rest of the south east by lorry would clog up local roads.
A Highways Agency spokesman said that work to increase capacity of the M25 junction 30, and the A13 would be fully funded by DP World.
A13 works will total £1.25M.
DP World would not reveal costs for the rest of the work.
Design of the M25 upgrade is ongoing.
'Essex County Council is keen to discuss ways to fund a second access to Shell Haven to the north, that would signifi antly ease congestion and mitigate the effects of the extra movements that the port will bring, ' a spokeswoman said.
Former site owner Shell has already funded the £50M clearance of the 607ha site. Development of the port will require ground remediation to remove contamination, and marine civils work on a mammoth scale.
Four design and build consortia are jockeying to win the massive contract.
A source close to the project said that there are two front runners - Costain with Westminster Dredging, and Nuttall teamed with dredging contractor Van Oord.
Laing O'Rourke and China Harbour are also bidding for the work.
DP World said it wants the first phase of the port to be completed by the end of 2010.