Great Yarmouth outer harbour debate - the MEP’s view

Richard Howitt MEP, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the East of England:

There has never been any doubt in my mind that building the Outer Harbour was crucial to the economic future both of Great Yarmouth itself, with some of the highest levels of deprivation in the region, and of the wider county, with the potential to attract new investment for the new trade opportunities which would follow.

It was the number one priority for good friends and colleagues Tony Wright, the former MP, and ex-councillor Mick Castle, so naturally I wanted to join them to 'do my bit'.

That meant giving my support for around �4.5m of European Regional Aid as part of the package of public support towards the construction costs.

It meant advising on getting the European permission needed to show that public investment was justified to bring about necessary economic development, and not an unfair subsidy for one port over another.

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As reported in the EDP, that also meant informal brokering with the owners of Felixstowe and Harwich ports down the East coast.

Whatever the current controversies, the disappointments of goals yet to be realised count little for me in comparison with the previous frustrations of a project which seemed always on the brink of happening but never quite making it.

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The facts are simple. World trade will continue to increase. Climate change means sea freight will become more not less important. The vast majority of deep sea freight will continue to go direct to the continent. Therefore, our ability to benefit will depend on fast and efficient links to that inter-continental trade, as part of what the EU calls 'motorways of the sea'.

Deep water facilities at Great Yarmouth put us on that map, and still today unlock that potential for new investment in transport and distribution, lower costs for our manufacturing businesses and a future on a key trade route for Europe as a whole.

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