Expansion plans at Newhaven Port could bring 150 jobs, attract more marine and renewable energy businesses, according to Newhaven Port and Properties.
It held a public exhibition at the Hillcrest Centre in Newhaven this week outlining its proposals for the East Quay, which will cost £20m to £40m.
However some residents have raised concerns about the loss of rare vegetated shingle, congestion and noise.
Around 300 people attended the exhibition according to NPP.
As part of the development the port said it would develop a nature reserve to the east of the site.
It explained it was seeing an increased level of interest from companies which wanted a base in the port.
NPP added it needed to increase the amount of marine traffic using the port but had limited quayside space to do this.
The plans include building a multi purpose berth and expansion area.
A number of key uses are expected including aggregates handling, quarried stone handling, bulk or general cargoes, fish import, export and processing, maintenance and repair of work boats, biomass product handling, office and warehouse space for offshore wind and other projects, renewable energy related business and short/long term parking.
The new berth will be 300m long and 70m wide.
A 30m slipway would be built, capable of serving vessels of up to 100 tonnes in weight.
This new berth would allow the safe berthing of larger ships, opening possibilities of a global market, said NPP.
Construction would take place between 2015 and 2018, but would be subject to planning permission.
Newhaven MP Norman Baker said: “I have been discussing future investment with Newhaven Port and Properties for some time now, and am delighted to see the official publication of this plan.
“I believe the French owners are serious about investing in Newhaven and I very much welcome this.
“Much of the port’s infrastructure is dilapidated and unchanged for decades and needs speedy investment to meet the needs of the future.
“The plans for a new berth underline the commitment to a continuing ferry service, which is excellent news for the town, as is the emergence of the port as the South Coast centre for offshore renewable energy, which is central to this plan.”
The vegetated shingle habitat at Tide Mills Nature Reserve to the east of the port is a nationally scarce habitat.
NPP said it understood the importance of vegetated shingle within the development’s footprint and said the project had been designed to minimise the impact on vegetated shingle. The total area of shingle which will be affected will be 2.24ha, however due to the nature of the development it was not possible to avoid the habitat all together.
It will work with East Sussex County Council and the South Downs National Park to develop a mitigation strategy.
We asked the Facebook group Save Newhaven Beach and Breakwater for their views on Newhaven Port’s expansion plans.
West Beach campaigner Heather McClean said: “Having looked at the plans I am glad that some renovation is being carried out on the decrepit quayside but deeply disappointed to see yet another local beach under attack by NPP.
“Seemingly the local ‘jobs’ initially promised for building the wind turbines is not to benefit the local economy either.”
And Chris Zara said: “If the docks are going to be revamped then get the road system and the town centre sorted at the same time otherwise certain parts will turn into a version of the Eastbourne (Sovereign) harbour scheme on the East and West side of the harbour with a town centre of little appeal.
“I know a few of the architects who have drawn up plans for the East Side of the docks and like what they have come up with but trying to turn Newhaven into a major port is akin to making Rye a major port, the roads don’t work so the scheme will not.”
And Paul Cutler said: “Once funding is secured for the redevelopment of the port, some of this money should be set aside to re open access to Newhaven Breakwater and remedial work to the steps to give access to the West Beach.
“I’d also like to see the scrap pile moved from the quayside.”
Newhaven MP Norman Baker added: “I recognise of course the continuing determination in the town to reopen the West Beach, a determination which I share.
“But we should not allow that important matter to cloud our welcome for this positive plan for investment.”
And Lewes district councillor Rod Main, who represents Newhaven, said: “The plans look very interesting.
“This would seem to be a chance to give the port a better wharf with the potential for a better ferry terminal and all that that entails. “This could then result in the area around the UTC becoming surplus to requirements and giving the potential for some other riverside developments in the longer term. All of which will contribute to the regeneration effort going on in Newhaven.
“NPP do seem to have taken care to ensure that public rights of way will be preserved and access to the east pier will also be retained. “They are also looking at making part of their land into a wildlife/nature reserve area towards Tide Mills.
“This would seem to indicate that further eastward development is not in their plans.
“On the face of it, then, this could be good for Newhaven. Now...about that beach NPP!”