Environmental impacts of the proposed London Gateway port development, Thurrock, Essex.

Alastair Grant

Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, University of East Anglia

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On 25th February 2003, the public equiry began into proposals by P&O and Shell to redevelop the former Shell Haven oil refinery into a container port. The enquiry closed on 5th September 2003. On 20th July 2005, the Transport Minister Derek Twigg indicated that the government was "minded to approve" the development, subject to satisfactory proposals to upgrade transport links to the site (see news stories in the Guardian newspaper and Environmental Data Interactive). Final approval was given on 30th May 2007 , and the development is now at an advanced stage. Some information is available on the developers website at: www.londongateway.com and the full planning inspector's report is also available from the UK Government national archive.

English Nature objected to the proposed development, and considers that "the project as proposed would be seriously damaging to nature conservation at international, national and local levels". They considered that the development could potentially have adverse effects on a number of areas designated as Ramsar sites, Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the EU "Birds" Directive and as candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSACs) under the EU "Habitats" Directive. A summary of their objections is available here. The planning inspector considered that the development will indeed damage these "Natura 2000" areas, so the proposals could only procede if appropriate measures were put in place to compensate for the areas lost or damaged by the development. An area of arable land was identified to the west of the development and this was flooded in July 2010. There is some debate about the extent to which it is possible to create intertidal habitats that provide adequate compensation for intertidal areas lost during developments such as this. Some time ago, we reviewed the literature on this question for English Nature, focussing primarily on mudflats and wading birds. A copy of our report to English Nature is available via this page. At that stage, we concluded that if stable mudflat could be created, invertebrates were likely to colonise. But recent experience on the Humber Estuary has found that some sites intended to be mudflats have undergone rapid sedimentation, followed by the development of salt marsh vegetation, which will limit their suitability as habitat for wading birds. And deliberate creation of saltmarshes has proved to be much more challenging that we initially expected.

Details of the public enquiry, including full transcripts of proceedings, are available on the UK national archive A map of the site is available via Multimap.

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Professor Alastair Grant (A.Grant@uea.ac.uk)

Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia

If you maintain websites that contain information on the London Gateway development or have other relevant information, please email me with details and I will consider including them here.

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