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Planning & Building Control

Port development one step closer after council gives green light for habitat scheme


Proposals to develop a long-awaited container port terminal in Harwich have taken a step closer after Tendring District Council (TDC) approved plans for a new natural habitat in Little Oakley, designed to compensate their impact on wildlife.

Hutchison Ports – which runs Harwich International Port – has to create new habitat to replace what will be lost as a result of planned development at Bathside Bay, which is an area of international importance for wildlife.

The firm had reapplied to TDC to create a new mudflat and saltmarsh habitat at Little Oakley, on the edge of Hamford Water, after a previous planning permission for the compensation works had expired.

Last night (Monday, 18 March) TDC’s Planning Committee approved the new plans to build a new sea wall and breach the existing one to create the estuarine habitat between Hamford Water and Irlam’s Beach.

The committee heard that the proposals met with local and national planning policy.

Councillors were told that though some ecological concerns had been raised, these were generally about whether the site was enough compensation habitat for Bathside Bay, rather than about the appropriateness of the Little Oakley site itself for a natural habitat. Some contrasting views were raised about site access, and planning officers concluded that the application was in line with policy and provided public benefits which outweighed concerns, it was recommended for approval.

The new habitat area will include five viewing platforms and permissive footpaths around the site to maintain access to the natural environment.

While planning permission has been granted for the scheme, Hutchison Ports will also need to obtain a licence from the government’s Marine Management Organisation before works can commence. That separate process will consider, in further detail, the water-related impacts of the proposals.

A separate application by Hutchison Ports for the temporary use of Bathside Bay for a Green energy Hub to support the off-shore wind industry before the container port is completed, is still being assessed by TDC.

Ivan Henderson, TDC Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Regeneration and Tourism, welcomed the committee’s decision.

“This planning permission is an important step on the path to realising the potential of Freeport East, particularly around sustainable development of Bathside Bay, bringing skills opportunities and raising aspirations for our residents,” Councillor Henderson said.

“I am therefore pleased that the Planning Committee felt able to approve this planning application.”

Councillor Andy Baker, TDC Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, added: “Significant applications such as this need to be carefully considered, weighing a number of factors between planning policy, public interest, environmental impact, and so on; my thanks go to our planning officers for the time they have spent to assess this in-depth, and also to members of our Planning Committee for their thorough scrutiny and consideration of this application.”

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