Environmental impacts of the proposed Bathside Bay port development, Harwich, England.
Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, University of East Anglia
On 17th April 2003, Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd submitted a planning application to Tendring District Council to build what will be the second biggest container port in the UK, if the development goes ahead. On 22nd Decmber 2005, the UK Transport Minister Derek Twigg indicated that he was "minded to approve" the scheme - in other words the development will obtain approval provided certain conditions or minor changes can be agreed and on 29th March 2006, final approval was given. The planning inspector's report has also been released
The port is on a site at Bathside Bay, near Harwich in Essex on the East Coast of England. The site is on the Stour and Orwell estuaries, much of which is designated as a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds directive and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), because of the presence of saltmarshes and because the intertidal mudflats provide feeding grounds for large numbers of wading birds during the winter. The area surrounding the estuary is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A public enquiry into the proposals began on 20th April 2004 (see BBC News item). Information on this is available from the Planning Inspectorate's web site. More details of the proposals are available on the Harwich International Port Container Terminal web pages, in comments from the local Member of Parliament and articles from the Guardian newspaper, the East Anglian Daily Times and BBC News. A copy of the Environmental Impact Assessment submitted as part of the application is available on Hutchison's web site. Of particular interest are the assessment of likely environmental impacts and the proposed compensatory measures.
The port development will replace an area of mudflats, leading to a reduction on the intertidal area available for feeding birds. Although Bathside Bay is just outside of the designated Special Protection Area, the development is considered to have adverse effects on it because birds from the SPA make use of the Bay, particularly during bad weather (see the Stour and Orwell Estuary Website and BBC News for more details). To compensate for the habitat being lost, Hutchison Ports proposes to create 112 hectares of intertidal habitat in Hamford Water in Essex, near the village of Little Oakley. These is some detail on this proposal on the UK Sand And Gravel Association's web site, Hutchison's own website anda BBC News item. The proposed site is on the north shore of Hamford Water, south east of Foulton Hall in the village of Little Oakley. Our report to English Nature on whether it is feasible to create intertidal habitat for use by waterbirds is available via this page. In addition to the immediate effects of the development, there is some concern that the maintenance of dredged deepwater channels may increase rates of mudflat and saltmarsh erosion elsewhere in the Stour/Orwell system. Erosion of mudflats and saltmarshes has been a significant problem in the whole of Essex for several decades (see Tyndall Centre and English Nature web sites for more details). There is some strong local opposition to the proposals on aesthetic and environmental grounds. The Stour and Orwell Estuary website includes an online discussion forum on the proposals.
Follow this link for a site map on Multimap.com. An aerial photograph of the site, including identification of the area of mudflats to be reclaimed, is available here, as part of the Harwich Maritime Heritage Trail. An Aerial photograph of the whole Stour/Orwell system is available on the Shotley Peninsula website
Proposals for a similar development at Dibden Bay on Southampton Water were rejected but those for a new container facility at London Gateway (Shell Haven) near Thurrock on the Thames estuary havehave also recieved conditional approval.
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Professor Alastair Grant
Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia
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