Jetty bid puts UK wind hub 'in peril'

A bitter row has erupted over a proposed £450m ($742m) offshore wind support hub in northeast England – with its developer warning that plans by the port owner for a new jetty could sink the whole project.

The Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP) development on the south bank of the Humber Estuary hopes to host major supply-chain players serving big offshore wind projects in the North Sea.

But AMEP and the local authority in the area – North Lincolnshire Council – have both cried foul over a proposal by Associated British Ports (ABP) to develop a new jetty and fuel terminal on land earmarked for the marine energy park.

According to the two, any delay to the wider marine park project – which has already received planning approval from the UK government – could prove fatal to AMEP if ABP chose to use a Special Parliamentary Procedure or other legal devices potentially available to it in a bid to lever its jetty into the plans.

Neil Etherington, development director of AMEP developer Able Group said: “The relatively small area of land which ABP now wants to develop is crucial to the development of AMEP – without it the scheme would fall. 

“That has been made clear throughout the planning process and was clearly understood by both the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State for Transport in their decisions to approve the application.”

Etherington said AMEP is on a strict timetable if it is to be ready to serve UK offshore wind mega-projects such as Hornsea and Dogger Bank.

“Seeking any major modification of this kind would effectively mean having to restart the planning procedures all over again. That would mean a delay of as much as a further four years or so by which time the need and opportunity of the AMEP development – and the Humber – would be lost,” he said.

North Lincolnshire Council fired off its own broadside from Marcus Walker, head of planning and regeneration, who said in a statement: “The Able Marine Energy Park will transform the economy of the entire Humber region. It is set to become the largest offshore wind park in Europe.

“It will create more than 4,000 jobs and has the potential to deliver economic prosperity across Northern Lincolnshire and beyond for decades to come,” added Walker.

“By comparison, the ABP proposal for a jetty would provide few new jobs but would almost certainly kill off the Able Marine Energy Park proposals.”

AMEP and the local authority both questioned why the plan had been put forward now, claiming that ABP has held the rights to develop the land for decades without doing so.

For its part, ABP claimed the matter can still be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

A statement said: “ABP are disappointed by North Lincolnshire Council’s objection to our proposal to construct the Immingham Western Deepwater Jetty, which appears to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the underlying issues.

“Our plans would not prevent Able UK proceeding with their plans for the Able Marine Energy Park. ABP do not oppose the principle of the development of the Able Marine Energy Park.  In a slightly altered form both Able UK’s plans and ABP’s plans could proceed alongside each other, delivering the greatest possible level of local jobs and investment.

“ABP will be seeking an urgent meeting with the council and other stakeholders to lay out the real facts again. It is still not too late to ensure all parties work together, rather than against each other.”

ABP is working on its own Green Port Hull initiative on the other bank of the Humber at Alexander Dock, where Siemens has earmarked a site for a potential turbine assembly plant.

AMEP already has a commitment in principle from Austria’s Strabag to site a foundation facility there.