The Government has confirmed it is minded to approve ambitious plans from a Teesside company for a £450m energy park on the South Bank of the Humber.
But the Planning Inspectorate wants further evidence relating to ecological compensation measures and the protection of a local rail line before giving the proposals for Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP) the final go-ahead.
The plans, from Billingham-based Able UK, would see a state-of-the-art quayside facility for the manufacture, assembly and installation of offshore renewable technologies, which would create 4,000 jobs directly.
The latest update came this week from Transport Minister Norman Baker, who revealed the Inspectorate panel had recommended granting consent for the development, but wanted further details on the two issues raised to be supplied by September 25.
Able UK Group development director Neil Etherington: “It is obviously good news that the panel which carried out the very detailed and complex examination of our application recommended granting consent.
“It’s also good news that in today’s announcement ministers do recognise the regeneration and economic benefits for both the local area and the wider development of the offshore renewable energy industry.
“At the same time it has to be said that a further delay in a decision is disappointing.
“The Planning Inspectorate gave its recommendations to Government in February, a decision was originally due in May and now the deadline has been pushed back to December.
““Given that, when it was announced in July that the deadline had been pushed back today in order to clarify issues relating to the Crown Estate, one has to wonder why the issues relating to the concerns of Natural England over ecological measures and the question of protecting future operations of the Killingholme branch railway could not have been dealt with at the same time.
“This application has been under consideration for around four years and, as part of the planning process, we have put forward measures to spend over £35m protecting wildlife and the environment.”
Established in 1966, Able UK runs a range of port services, as well as demolition, waste management and land development services.
If given the go-ahead the new development will cover 906 acres and, being based in the centre of the largest Entreprise Zone in the UK, should act as a catalyst for establishing the Humber as a world-class centre for the renewable energy industries.
The energy park will also form an integral part of the overall Able Humber Port development, which covers 2,135 acres with a river frontage of two and a half miles.
Able has already invested over £50m in the first stage of its development, which is currently used for vehicle import, storage and distribution activities.
The company also has approval for the multi-million pound 1,229 acre Able Logistics Park which will include warehousing and external storage areas, offices, a business park and ancillary services.
Etherington added: “We will be taking immediate steps to address the issues raised in the Government’s announcement and sincerely hope that there will be no further delays in a project which enjoys the overwhelming support of the entire local community, including MPs, local authorities, the Local Enterprise Partnership, and, of course, the offshore wind sector itself.”