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Last Updated: Friday, 5 October 2007, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
'Ghost ships' decision put back
US ghost fleet
An inquiry into the original planning application is due to go ahead
Councillors have put off a decision that could have led to so-called "ghost ships" being scrapped on Teesside.

Hartlepool Borough Council's planning committee decided on Friday to defer the application by Able UK to scrap four ships from the United States.

The ruling followed a stormy meeting, in which a protester was thrown out under threat of arrest.

Able UK condemned the delay and said it would jeopardise the clinching of major contracts, threatening 750 jobs.

Last year the company's application to dismantle ships was rejected and a planning inquiry is due to begin on 9 October.

Able has since revised its proposals to do the work at Graythorp, including three planning applications and consent to work with hazardous substances.

There can be no justification whatsoever for the failure of the planning committee members to make a decision
Peter Stephenson, Able UK

Able UK chairman Peter Stephenson said: "The council was fully aware that it was imperative we received planning approval.

"This is in order for us to begin large scale construction contracts next year and if we did not receive planning approval in October then the work would be lost.

"Independent consultants advised the committee that the proposals would not result in harm to either the human or wildlife environments.

"Given that they had decided not to contest the appeal against their previous refusal, there can be no justification whatsoever for the failure of the planning committee members to make a decision today."

Councillor Carl Richardson told Friday's planning committee that the decision should be deferred.

Wind turbines

He said: "It's quite clear we need more information and there is information that we have not got at the moment."

In 2003, the firm won a contract with the US Government to dismantle up to 13 vessels.

Four ships arrived that year, but delays caused by environmental and planning concerns prevented the remaining nine leaving the James River in Virginia.

In October 2006, councillors threw out Able UK's original plans.

The council has since admitted that fresh government policy meant it could no longer block planning permission, but the decision came too late to save an order for the further nine vessels.

The Environment Agency has already withdrawn its objections to the plans. The main application covers a range of proposals to develop the site, including construction, repair, refurbishment and decommissioning of all types of vessels, and the manufacture of wind turbines.



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