Campaigners were angered last night after Parliament approved a plan to permit the transfer of millions of barrels of oil between ships off the East Anglian coast.

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A committee of MPs with powers to pass laws voted to make an area of Sole Bay the only offshore zone within UK territorial waters where tankers can exchange oil.

Immediately after the plan was approved, campaigners said the move risked not only the environment, but also Waveney’s £250m tourism industry.

They also accused the Conservative MPs for Waveney, Peter Aldous, and Suffolk Coastal, Therese Coffey, of letting constituents down in failing to stop the measure; a charge denied by the MPs. Transport minister Mike Penning hit back by saying critics of the plan were “scaremongering” and that officials had considered the decision carefully and come to the right decision.

Currently ship-to-ship transfers can take place anywhere off the coast around the UK. The previous government had wanted to see them limited to harbour authority waters.

But as the Labour administration left power, that change was blocked by Conservative MPs, including Ms Coffey and Mr Aldous.

The alternative proposal brought forward by the new coalition administration, and passed last night, will see a transfer zone created 12 miles off Southwold with a 1.5 mile radius. The policy will be reviewed in five years’ time.

John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said: “I remain clearly of the viewpoint that oil and tourism simply don’t mix and nothing I heard in the committee hearing said by the minister changed my mind,” he told the EDP.

Mr Perkins argued that if Mr Aldous and Ms Coffey had not opposed the original proposals in which transfers were to take place in harbours, then Southwold would not now be stuck with the only UK transfer zone.

Former Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, who is planning to stand again at the next election, said: “The disappointing thing is that neither of the MPs from Suffolk Coastal or Waveney were on the committee taking this decision. To her credit, Therese turned up to the hearing, but Peter didn’t even do that. I believe this is an unacceptable risk to the coastal environment and the valuable tourism industry. People are very concerned about it.”

But Mr Penning told the committee that if the government did not introduce its plan the risk to the environment would be even greater, with tankers carrying out transfers at will and completely unregulated.

Under his proposal, he explained, transfers would take place under strict rules in a monitored area and with an inspection regime imposed by the government.

Speaking to the EDP after the meeting, Ms Coffey pointed out that the government had agreed to carry out an emergency planning exercise to help authorities prepare for any mishaps that might occur in the future.

She said: “So we did get some concessions from the minister in terms of the exercise and it is important that local people feel that if there’s a problem it will be addressed.”

Meanwhile Mr Aldous said he stood by the government’s decision, adding that as he had already consulted the minister and conveyed his view it was not necessary for him to attend yesterday’s hearing.

8 comments

  • Common sense has prevailed.

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    Port Watcher

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

  • ".......campaigners said the move risked not only the environment, but also Waveney’s £250m tourism industry." Can these campaigners actually provide evidence of Waveney's £250 million tourist industry ?

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    "V"

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

  • I personally cant see what the risk is with these transfers, the waters off the coast are calm for these ships to operate in, in comparison with any southwest or west coast, these operations also have a positive economic spin off for the local area, the scaremongers need to put things into perspective, there is a lot less oil on beaches nowadays because ships no longer can flush their tanks and get away with it. Typically Bob Blizzard is being party political once again.

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    BlueRobin

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

  • They have been doing it off here for years and 12 miles out you can't see them anyway. They have recently been anchored close in but they don't do the transfers that close. And also another thing didn't the people of waveney and southwold vote the torys in when labour were the ones who were going to stop the transfers. Enough said really. They have themselves to blame.

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    vinny.p

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

  • Common sense has prevailed.

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    Port Watcher

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

  • BlueRobin asserts that the transfers have "a positive economic spin-off for the local area". Peter Aldous (shamefully absent yesterday) "thinks the practice benefits the area by creating jobs." No proper evaluation seems to be available. A previous article in The Journal suggests the value to the local economy of the transfers might be £5m a year. The tourist economy, for which there are some statistics is £250m. And since I would not wish to appear to know the price of everything and the value of nothing, there is also the question of the threat to a coastline which is enjoyed by residents all year round. Ms Coffey, covering all possibilities, has said that she would like these transfers to be permitted all round the UK! I do not understand the repeated complaints here, and in the letters section of The Journal, of 'party political' views. Party politics is inherent to our system of government, both nationally and locally. To fail to recognise this is naïve.

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    point du jour

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

  • Regardless of the rights or wrongs of this issue,Coffey and Aldous only opposed this now because they were secure in the knowledge that it would go through anyway - so they can blame someone else - and they can try to curry favour with the local electorate by pretending to care! Hopefully the voters of Waveney and Suffolk Coastal will have longer memories when it comes to the next election when considering who to trust!

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    Dogberry

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

  • Surely the tourist income that could be affected is that of Southwold and not all Waveney?

    Report this comment

    BabyDavid

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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