Centre Port boss makes the case for £2 billion Wash scheme - and why he thinks it will boost West Norfolk
The man behind a £2 billion project to create a hydro electric dam across The Wash says it will create an economic boost for our area.
Centre Port wants to build a flood barrier with deep sea port - and a road to link Norfolk and Lincolnshire - along with the capability of generating enough renewable energy to power 600,000 homes using tidal power.
Chief executive James Sutcliffe said that the scheme would have an economic benefit by creating more than a thousand new jobs - along with protecting the fenlands against the impact of climate change.
He said: “It should have a beneficial effect to the economies on both sides of The Wash in terms of the possibilities for new factories and jobs and businesses.
“By having a deep sea container terminal connected to the rest of the world will significantly increase the potential for trade and business in this region. In additional renewable energy that can be piped through to Norfolk and Lincolnshire.”
Mr Sutcliffe, who helped to privatise Boston Port and has worked on similar projects in Poland, said that the UK needs additional container terminal space given that most freight is only currently docked in the south of the country.
The firm says the container terminal would be able to cater for large sea going vessels and could process between 1.5million and 4 million containers a year.
Mr Sutcliffe said that the plan would not affect the operation of Boston, Lynn and Wisbech Ports, but would be ‘positive’.
He said that containers, once unloaded, could be transported to the ports via electric powered barges or via the dual carriageway planned over the barrage.
Mr Sutcliffe said: “Part of the thinking is the location as the port would be 50% closer to the East and West Midlands.
“There would be savings in haulage costs and international trade will be come and go through the port. We are also seriously thinking about a road rail connection to northern European ports.”
The project also includes a lock for fishing boats and sailing vessels to get into the open sea.
Also part of the plans is a dual carriageway which would link Wainfleet to Hunstanton in a 20 minute journey.
Tidal turbines would harness the incoming and outgoing tides twice day to provide energy for 600,000 homes.
The project also aims to include a flood defence with a 11 mile barrage, which the company says would protect not only Norfolk and Lincolnshire but also Cambridgeshire.
Mr Sutcliffe said: “It is enormously important for the Fens.
“The impact of glacial and ice sheet melting is that the sea levels will rise in a seriously short space of time.
“Something has to be done to protect the Fens.”
Mr Sutcliffe said the project would take an estimated three years to build but would have to go through an extensive application process.
He said: “It is a relief to be able to put the project out there and get people’s reaction which have been positive so far.”
Centrica, parent company of British Gas, has invested into the ‘seed’ round allowing Centre Port to engage environmental and technical consultancies to begin work on a Feasibility Study.
Centrica would also provide a guaranteed price for the renewable energy produced by the project.
Greg McKenna, managing director of Centrica Business Solutions, said: “We’re excited to help Centre Port explore their ambitious plans for The Wash.
"The project represents one of the largest tidal power schemes anywhere in the world and provide a reliable source of green energy to the UK.
"The first step is to understand the role such a scheme would play in an area of the country particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”
The plans have been met with some criticism though.
A group of wildlife and conservation charities have said the scheme would pose "significant risks" and "fundamentally alter one of the UK's most important wetlands".
The RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT), Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust (LWT), the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and Wild Ken Hill Estate, based at Snettisham and home to the BBC's Springwatch, have released a joint statement urging the government and developers to re-think the proposal to "avoid catastrophic effects on nature and wildlife".
But Mr Sutcliffe said: "The local environment is seriously at risk from climate change.
"Our mission is to retain The Wash boundaries, its wildlife and ecology and to minimise climate change impacts that could devastate these sensitive areas."