Salmond urged to block Rosyth container port

Charles Hammond, Forth Ports' chief executive. Picture: TSPL
Charles Hammond, Forth Ports' chief executive. Picture: TSPL
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A SCOTTISH business leader has urged First Minister Alex Salmond to intervene and throw out proposals to build a container terminal at Rosyth.

Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, is demanding the government reverse its intention to back engineering giant Babcock’s £85 million plan, which he claims is unjustified.

Babcock wants to develop the derelict site on land that was reclaimed but never used for the refitting of Trident nuclear submarines. It says it will create hundreds of jobs.

But in a letter to Salmond, seen by Scotland on Sunday, Hammond says there is no demand for another container facility and would be further concerned if there was any public funding support for the project. However, the land is owned by Babcock.

Following a seven-week public inquiry last year, ministers are said to be minded to back the plan, which will go to the Scottish Parliament for approval.

Hammond has sent copies of his letter to a number of MSPs, including Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Transport Minister Keith Brown. He claims the inquiry did not properly examine the case for building the facility.

“The proposed facility has no independently justifiable needs case,” he writes. “No proper account has been taken of potential container capacity at Grangemouth specifically or of the other options available on the Forth, or of economic need more generally. In Forth Ports’ view, the proposed facility is completely unwarranted.”

Hammond says the proposal is “fatally flawed” in a number of respects, including an inadequate environmental impact assessment, and says Forth Ports would consider a legal challenge if the project gets ­final approval.

“In our view, Scottish ministers’ decision to adopt the recommendation to approve the order, as contained in the report of the inquiry into the application, with little if any further explanation even on those matters which the reporters chose either to overlook or to leave for Scottish ministers’ decisions, is completely un­justified.

“At Forth Ports we have no issue with new competition from Babcock or others, but we do expect fair treatment and a level playing field. Unfortunately, we do not feel this has occurred in this case.”

He goes on to argue that “this is not the right answer for Scotland” and that “in the interests of justice and proper planning and development of new infrastructure”, Scottish ministers should “review the position” and the Parliament should not approve the order without being satisfied that it meets the national planning framework.

Hammond’s case has been supported by a number of other objectors, including the Freight Transport Association which cast “serious doubts” over the need for the terminal.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Scottish ministers have accepted the findings of the reporter following a public local inquiry and confirmed that an order for construction of the Rosyth International Container Terminal will be made, subject to parliamentary approval. The development will support local jobs and generate substantial local economic activity, as well as bringing significant benefits to the Scottish economy.

“Scotland’s Second National Planning Framework (NPF2) identifies the need for additional container capacity on the Forth, including Rosyth, and ministers are satisfied that this development accords with it.”