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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Company wins 'ghost ship' battle
US ghost fleet
The first of four ships arrived on Teesside in November 2003
The scrapping of so-called "ghost ships" on Teesside looks likely to go ahead, after a u-turn by council bosses.

Able UK won a controversial contract with the US government to dismantle up to 13 vessels at its Hartlepool yard, and four ships arrived in late 2003.

But delays caused by environmental and planning concerns prevented any work.

Hartlepool Council has now removed the final hurdle, by admitting it can no longer block planning permission.

The dismantling plans were dogged by debate over the potential impact on the surrounding area and wildlife.

Last year, Hartlepool councillors threw out a number of planning applications by Able UK.

It was very apparent that this was a battle we had absolutely no chance of winning
Rob Cook, Hartlepool Council

But now the authority has said new government planning policies mean it has no chance of successfully challenging an appeal by Able UK to the Planning Inspectorate.

The Environment Agency withdrew its objections to Able UK's plans last May.

Rob Cook, chair of Hartlepool Council's planning committee, said: "We have listened to the advice from legal and other experts and felt we could not substantiate the reasons for refusal and therefore decided to offer no evidence to the appeals.

"It was very apparent that this was a battle we had absolutely no chance of winning.

"Fresh government policy has been issued and it would be wholly irresponsible if we chose to disregard it."

Able UK has welcomed the decision, which came too late to save an order from the US government to scrap a further nine vessels on Teesside.

Able UK chairman Peter Stephenson said: "Although the council has no objections to the scheme, Able still does not have planning permission.

"We are exploring whether the council will now grant permission so as to remove the uncertainties as quickly as possible."

The 'ghost ships' docked in Hartlepool

Q&A: Ghost ships
07 Jan 04 |  England

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