Now harbour dream can become reality

It has been a long and difficult passage, but after years of struggles Yarmouth is finally to have its outer harbour. LAURA DEVLIN takes a look back.

It has been a long and difficult passage, but after years of struggles Yarmouth is finally to have its outer harbour. LAURA DEVLIN takes a look back.


The cliché of a planning application having to overcome hurdles does not even begin to cover this tortuous saga.

It was more than 30 years ago that the outer harbour was first mooted as a way of strengthening Yarmouth's economy by transforming the South Denes area of town.

The port and infrastructure would be upgraded, creating jobs and helping companies to grow by creating a gateway to Europe.

Thousands of people would be employed in building and operating the new port and associated facilities.

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As well as opening up a new trade route for the region's companies, it could bolster our tourist trade. We could expect hordes of visitors to travel on the shortest North Sea crossing from Ijmuiden in Holland to see Norfolk's attractions.

And yet, as the 1970s passed by, then the 1980s, then the 1990s, that outer harbour was still nowhere in sight.

By the mid-1990, millions of pounds from the government, public bodies and private investors had been earmarked for the then £30m transformation. Even so, the project was still years away.

But that did not stop cash being spent on all kinds of consultations, from assessing the environmental impact to checking how a computer model of the harbour would stand up to storms, high tides and prevailing winds.

Ten years ago, the outer harbour was already long awaited, although the EDP reported wishfully that work could start “as soon as next year” - 1998. It was seen too as a possible catalyst for the dualling of Yarmouth's A47 road link with the midlands. The town's inadequate transport infrastructure was seen to be hindering severely its economic development and job creation prospects.

County councillor Michael Castle, given the job of chairing the project team at the end of the 20th century, remained upbeat.

He said: “The chances of the outer harbour going ahead are now better than 50/50. We have to make sure it's a 100pc certainty. There is a certain amount of scepticism in the public because they have seen too many false dawns.”

A new millennium arrived, and with it new hope.

The project was officially launched in 2000, and the following year a partnership was cemented with Ijmuiden.

And then another upset: despite a series of reports showing how an outer harbour would kick-start Yarmouth's failing economy, it was held up until the rival ports at King's Lynn and Lowestoft had dropped their objections in 2004.

Still, the project looked inevitable - as it had done so many times before - with the very real prospect of a ferry service to Holland running as early as Christmas 2006 and the prospect of freight services to Norway in the future.

The government finally approved the scheme in January 2005 and gained planning approval the following July, and £18m of public funding was made available.

The first visible steps towards the much-vaunted construction were taken last August when a drilling rig was deployed for tests on the seabed - an entire generation after Yarmouth families were promised those extra jobs.

So, perhaps they can be forgiven if they suspend their belief until the very first concrete has been poured...