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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Ghost ships bid 'to save beaches'
US ghost fleet
Four 'ghost ships' have been moored in Hartlepool since 2003
A company bidding to scrap so-called US "ghost ships" in Hartlepool has told a public inquiry the plans would help protect third world beaches.

Able UK wants to extend Graythorp dock to dismantle the former naval vessels, but the planning application was rejected by the town council last year.

The firm said the plans would reduce environmental damage caused overseas by "uncontrolled" decommissioning.

Friends of the Earth have said the scheme would damage residents' health.

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

Dangling a few jobs is not going to help the well-being of any residents
Iris Ryder, The Friends of Hartlepool

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

Last October, Hartlepool councillors threw out planning applications by Able UK to decommission all the vessels at the Graythorp yard.

The firm said it would appeal, and earlier this year Hartlepool Council admitted that fresh government policy meant it could no longer block planning permission.

Able UK welcomed the decision, which came too late to save the order for the further nine vessels.

The local authority will not oppose the appeal, which forms the basis of the public inquiry.

'Harmful toxins'

Martin Kingston QC told the hearing there would be major economic benefits to Hartlepool and that the facilities would fill a national and international gap in the ship recycling market.

The 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.

Objectors from The Friends of Hartlepool organisation and Hartlepool Friends of the Earth claimed various harmful toxins would be released during recycling

Iris Ryder, of The Friends of Hartlepool, said: "Dangling a few jobs is not going to help the well-being of any residents."

The planning inquiry is expected to last two weeks and it could be early next year before a decision is announced.

Q&A: Ghost ships
07 Jan 04 |  England

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