I have welcomed the National Policy Statement (NPS) on Ports which should bring such benefit to our community by helping developments and investment at the Port of Dover.
Today in the House I said;
The NPS is extraordinarily important. Representing Dover, I know just how important it is. Only today, the approval has been announced of a plan for the development of the western docks at Dover. It is a gold-plated plan on a rather larger scale than it needs to be, with a price tag of £400 million of investment, and the application has taken getting on for five years to go through the system—an awfully long time. Although the planned capacity will possibly not be needed until 2025 or 2030, owing to the economic difficulties that the country has faced in recent years, and although a gold-plated scheme certainly is not needed, it is an important step forward for the development of the port of Dover. It is much easier to amend an application once permission has been granted than to make a new one.
The fact that it has taken so long for the application finally to be approved underlines the need for a far swifter system of getting applications passed and sorted out. As the Transport Committee made clear in its report, there have been calls from business interests and others for major infrastructure projects to be handled properly, not with extensive public inquiries and long drawn-out decision-making processes but in a shorter and sharper way—something a bit less than the terminal 5 or Sizewell B inquiry nightmares. The NPS is therefore extraordinarily welcome.
My hon. Friend Dr Lewis was right that the application at Dibden bay took a long time and got thrown out. It took four years, and I believe that it cost the applicant some £45 million, so that was dead money. That makes no sense whatever. The new, swifter method will be much better.
The shadow Minister, John Woodcock, rightly made the point that it is desirable to consider the wider aspects of the matter. My understanding is that the NPS is more focused on planning applications for ports than on whether development rights will be granted. I agree with him that, some years on from the Eddington report, which was produced back in 2006, not a lot has happened to the road infrastructure to ports. Although I picked him up for making a slightly partisan point about that, the fundamental point was accurate. We in Dover have been waiting for the upgrade of the A2, which is an important potential artery to the port. It was in the roads programme back in 1997, but was taken out and has not yet got back in. We have been waiting for that road to be dualled and upgraded for years, but it has not happened. We feel very strongly about that, and the Eddington report was fundamentally correct on the matter.
I turn to the NPS itself. The contents page reveals a massive focus on the environmental side of things. There are sections on, for instance, the environmental impact assessment, habitats and species regulations, pollution control, climate change control, biodiversity—so the list goes on. There is, one suspects, a greater concern about flood risks, coastal change and all the environmental things—including, I dare say, the lesser-spotted shellfish—than on socio-economic impacts, tourism and, above all, regeneration.
It has been an honour and privilege to serve as Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. I hope to be re-elected to serve our community for another term.
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