Access to ports: Eighth Report of Session 2013-14

A Transport Committee report looks into government policy on improving access to ports and recommends that the Department for Transport clarify what it considers to be the appropriate balance between environmental protection and economic development in relation to ports.

The report states that ports are essential to the economic wellbeing of the UK and that some 95% of UK cargo movements by tonnage is waterborne and ports collectively employ some 117,000 people. Ports large and small are affected by the quality of transport links to their hinterlands, whether that be by road, rail, inland waterways or coastal shipping. Constraints on road and rail networks in particular can limit the size of a port and its economic impact.

The report adds that the Transport Committee were struck by concerns raised about the complexity of the planning system. Hutchison Ports said the system was "extremely complex". Associated British Ports said that planning regulations were sometimes "flawed and unnecessary". Describing the three year process by which the Bathside Bay development at Harwich achieved planning consent, Haven Gateway Partnership said "Planning, environment, marine management, Natural England, English Heritage, Highways, State Aid, RSPB, EU Directives (Habitats, Birds), Marine Conservation Zones, all contribute obstacles to investment". DfT acknowledged that the planning system could be complex and said it was working to improve matters, for example by discussing with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how marine conservation zones affect port development.

The report recommended that the DfT tell the Transport Committee what it considers to be the appropriate balance between environmental protection and economic development in relation to ports; in what ways the Government has altered this balance since it came to power in 2010; and what work it is involved in to address complexities or regulatory barriers within the planning system which ports regard as detrimental to their interests.

The report also recommends that the DfT clarify whether or not it intends to bring forward a National Policy Statement on National Networks and, if so, its timetable for doing so

Date: 26/11/2013 Date of publication

Author: House of Commons Transport Committee

DCP link: This item updates DCP section 26.438


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