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Major ports programme planned

Port expansion projects will be fast-tracked through the planning process, after the government confirmed a “broad need” for more capacity up to 2030 and beyond.

Planning decisions on projects included in the new draft ports National Policy Statement (NPS), published this week by the Department for Transport (DfT) will now be made by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

The government’s interim ports policy review in July 2007 said that demand for capacity will grow, with the container and ro-ro sectors expecting to see an average annual growth rate of around 3% to 4%.

But developing new ports capacity in the UK is notoriously difficult as schemes attract fierce environmental opposition.

“With over 90% of all goods arriving in the UK by sea, our ports currently employ over 54,000 people.”

Shipping minister Paul Clark

In 2004 the government rejected Associated British Ports’ (ABP’s) plan to build a £600M, 300ha container port and intermodal complex at Dibden Bay, Southampton Water, after three years of planning inquiries.

The DfT adopted the planning inspector’s recommendation that the scheme should not go ahead because of its environmental impact.

The London Gateway scheme east of the capital did win planning permission approval in 2007, but only after a protracted four year planning process dating back to February 2003.

Major developments capable of handling at least 500,000 TEU (container units) per year − will be referred to the IPC.

Crucial role

“With over 90% of all goods arriving in the UK by sea, our ports currently employ over 54,000 people and clearly play a crucial role in the daily life of everybody in this country,” said shipping minister Paul Clark.

“While it is completely right that ports are free to operate on a commercial basis, any planned development clearly needs to be considered carefully to ensure local and environmental issues are properly taken into account.

“This new document will make it easier for those wishing to invest in ports development to submit planning applications, as well as providing an important framework for the IPC to use when considering them,” he said.

The IPC will ensure projects are suitably designed and acknowledge environmentally senstitive habitats, infrastructure connections, air emissions, noise, waste management and water quality.

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