TRANSPORT NEWS: MPs highlight government port failure

The competitiveness of UK ports is being undermined by the government's failure to deliver on its promise to improve port access, the Commons transport committee warned last week.

The select committee's report on the state of the country's ports concludes that the planning process is overly complex, while proposals for new ports are rarely backed up with the necessary infrastructure proposals.

The report adds that there are "compelling arguments" for planning at an integrated, national level rather than individually and for a national ports strategy.

The MPs claim that despite the changes proposed in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, "much could still be done" by the government to speed up the lengthy inquiry process. Three container port proposals are currently mired in the planning process - Dibden Bay in Southampton, the Trinity extension at Felixstowe and Shellhaven in the London Gateway.

"The government must consider individual applications in the context of a national policy, and this may mean that it cannot consider single projects in isolation," the report advises.

Duncan Huggett, senior policy officer at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said that the time has come for the government to implement the select committee's recommendations. "We need ports, but not at any price," he stressed.

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