Shoreham Port is “the best-kept secret in Sussex”, according the man who runs it.
Port chief executive Rodney Lunn said: “So much goes on here that no one knows about.”
When developers build new homes, much of the raw material passes through the port. As does salt on the roads during the icy winter months.
And then there’s the modernisation taking place, with arrays of solar panels and a planned bio fuel power station.
The air of optimism by the three-mile waterfont is supported by a growing number of businesses, officials and politicians, among others.
One could say that the tide has turned.
Eighteen years ago the port was engulfed in controversy over live animal exports – a trade that has long since ended.
These days it is better known for its eco port status and green energy generation.
Of course, complaints and disagreements are probably unavoidable.
The industrial harbour is next to thousands of homes in Hove, Portslade, Southwick and Shoreham.
And several tenants and landowners occupy the port’s 170 acres. One, ScottishPower, suffered a fire last year.
But those running the port are keen to communicate openly and transparently. They want to be good neighbours.
They are about to find out if their efforts are paying off. A public consultation is taking place until March.
The council has worked with the port and neighbouring Adur District Council on the plan. It sets out their joint ambitions for the port for the next 15 years.
At its heart, it’s all about jobs and homes. It ties in with the port’s own master plan.
“Up at the west arm over the lifetime of the master plan we would look at mixed development. There are 11 land owners.
“In the South Portslade industrial area and Aldrington Basin, we have been saying that we would prefer to see port-related activity in those areas. We don’t see any housing in our east arm.
“We’ve been very open and communicative with all three councils (Brighton and Hove, Adur and West Sussex County Council).
“And we’ve been sitting round the table with all three because it does go into an area which is greater than the port, like parts of Portslade.
“We’ve all come up with a sensible plan going forward.”
Brighton and Hove City Council hopes to build 400 homes at the harbour.
Colin Brace, the developer behind the project, has been talking to his opponents, to planners and the port.
Mr Lunn said: “Portzed sits just to the north of the port in Basin Road North.
“We’ve met Colin Brace and (the team behind) Portzed. He was very open with the port. He came down here and presented to us.
“We haven’t objected provided everyone else is ok with it.
The team running the port are proud of winning eco port status. Mr Lunn said: “We’re doing a lot on the renewable energy front.
“We’ve just put up solar panels on the roof of our Hove Enterprise Centre with the Brighton Energy Co-op. They were switched on in October.
“We’re currently looking at putting solar panels on all our warehouse roofs.
“In planning at the moment, at Adur, Edgeley Green Power has got an application for a bio-liquid power station next to the Scottish Power site and Parker Steel.”
A decision is due in March.
Mr Lunn continued: “That would be burning inedible oils, by-products of the wood trade in Sweden. They’re not fit for human consumption. They currently go to waste.
“There’s an excess of tall oil at the moment. It wouldn’t be burning anything like the palm oils or virgin oils out of Indonesia.
“We’ve now got eco port status and we’re looking a lot at renewables.
“We’re putting a lot effort into getting the port looking neat and tidy.
“We’ve got new sheds. We’ve invested £1.5 million in a new crane, a Sennenbogen, to lift 30 tonnes of steel.
“We’ve just renewed all of our forklift trucks – 17 of them – under the banner of being more eco-friendly.”
“I think Eon made the right decision in going to Newhaven. They want lots of space and Newhaven has got lots of space.
“Newhaven is very much a ferry port. Shoreham is very much a commercial port.
“We’re pleased that we can keep our commercial shipping berths available for commercial shipping.”
“The key thing for Shoreham is that we are a community port. We work very closely with the community.
“We’ve been trying to build relationships with the local authorities and the community.
“It’s really worked for us being open and transparent. If we get any complaints, we’ve invited people in for a cup of tea or coffee.
“It’s paid off as people have been coming here wanting to do business.
“Communication has been the key … the newsletters, the noticeboard by the lock gates, explaining what we and why we’re doing it.
“We have a turnover of about £10 million and that’s on the back of about two million tonnes of cargo coming through the port.
“As a trust port, any surplus we make we invest back into the port for the benefit of the community – the customers, the neighbours.
“We met Stephen Hammond recently, the new Shipping Minister, and he was very clear that there are no plans under the current government to privatise the seven largest trust ports.
“The management of the port is committed to it being a community port.”
Returning to the master plan, Mr Lunn said: “It’s also about creating employment. Parker Steel’s new facility, which was completed in May, has created a significant number of jobs for people working in their steel processing plant.
“There’s about 50 people there at the moment. I think they’ll be moving swiftly up to 100 people there and possibly up to 200 people in the future.
“We’ve got timber coming in from Sweden, there’s Parker Steel and ArcelorMittal and aggregates – Hanson, Cemex, Dudman and Kendalls.
“The port is very much related to the infrastructure of the area.
“Bartholomews, the silos company, has four big silos and five smaller ones. We recently completed a silo so we now export a lot of grain down to Spain and to Scotland.”
He said that the proposed University Technical College for Newhaven looked promising, adding: “We’re very supportive of it. We think the concept is great. It’s a super initiative.
“We’ve been working very closely with City College and Northbrook to see how we can help the youngsters out there find work and apprenticeships.
“For the last three years we’ve taken on a new apprentice and next year we will.”
One of the key appointments at the port, though, has been Mr Lunn’s boss, Jim May, as chairman.
He previously worked in banking. Yet while bankers as a profession are vilified, Mr May remains widely respected.
And reputation seems to be important to Mr Lunn. He said that the port was the best-kept secret in Sussex. But it’s a secret he’s happy to share.
He appears to be proud of the contribution that it makes to the area. And, as the air of optimism grows, it’s not hard to sense that word is likely to spread.
Three areas within Shoreham Harbour area have been identified as having the potential for change and are attracting interest from developers. They are the South Portslade Industrial Estate, Aldrington Basin in Hove and the Western Harbour Arm in Adur.
Council planning officials are drawing up development briefs and have already carried out informal consultation. It was focused on developers and landowners, other businesses, councillors and resident and amenity organisations.
The main concerns raised were:
• Potential threats to port operations and employment space
• Possible conflicts between port and employment uses and new residential uses
• The impact of new buildings, especially tall buildings, on neighbours
• The impact of lorries and other traffic
• Flood risks posed by new building and wider sustainability issues
• Potential threats to the capacity of mineral wharves.
The ambitions for one of those areas, Aldrington Basin, have been boiled down to half a dozen key headings for consultation. These are at the heart of the development brief being prepared to guide those who want to build at or by the harbour. They are the:
• Definition of appropriate retail and leisure activities to promote Aldrington Basin as a niche retail destination and visitor attraction
• Improvement of the link between Hove Lagoon and Aldrington Basin
• Enhancement of the perception of Aldrington Basin as a gateway into Shoreham Port
• Creation of modern and flexible workspace where existing employment sites are reaching the end of their useful life
• Identification of a limited number of sites for a residential-led mix of uses fronting Kingsway
• Definition of key design guidelines.
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