Southwold and Lowestoft oil tanker transfer vote pledge

THE long-running battle over plans to allow ship-to-ship transfers off the coast of Waveney is set to be fought out in Parliament after opposition MPs vowed to stop the controversial practice going ahead.

The government is proposing to designate the Sole Bay area, off Southwold, as the only place in UK territorial waters where tankers can legally transfer oil, despite fierce local objections.

Shipping minister Mike Penning hopes to introduce the exclusive zone from April after blocking the implementation of an all-out ban on the transfers which was drawn up by the previous Labour government.

But this week there was a glimmer of hope for anti-tanker campaigners when it was confirmed to The Journal that the Labour Party had decided to fight the plans being approved by Parliament. Shadow transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick said he would attempt to force a vote on the tanker transfer exclusion zone when it was brought before the House of Commons by Mr Penning.

Under parliamentary regulations, the government has until April to introduce legislation or legislative orders to create the new zone.

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The previous Labour administration had wanted to ban all transfers taking place in UK territorial waters, but that ban was blocked by the new coalition government when an Early Day Motion was submitted, which was signed by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

This week's developments come as authorities in New Zealand deal with an environmental disaster after a cargo ship ran aground on a reef causing a major oil spill.

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Campaigners fighting the transfers in Sole Bay have voiced concerns that a similar spill might happen here, devastating Waveney's coastline and harming its thriving tourism industry.

John Perkins, secretary of Southwold and Reydon Society, said: 'I think it is good news, not from any political view, but because it is sure to be debated and be subjected to a vote.'

The government had originally hoped to introduce the exclusive Sole Bay tanker zone from this month but the Department for Transport admitted there had been a delay because of the process of reversing Labour's legislation to outlaw the practice within the UK's 12-mile territorial limit.

Bob Blizzard, who fought to bring in the all-out ban while he was Labour MP for Waveney, said: 'The further delay gave us time to continue to campaign against this threat to our local tourism industry and coastal environment.'

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