AN ENVIRONMENTAL group was surprised but pleased the Government wants a public inquiry into a project that could provide hundreds of jobs.

Harwich Friends of the Earth has been campaigning against the Bathside Bay development since it was first proposed.

It said the plan to turn mudflats into a container port would destroy a wildlife habitat which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The Bathside Bay project could create up to 700 jobs. Plans have been put back until the economy improves but installing a platform would bring temporary opportunities to the town such as from the wind farm industry.

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government revealed he wants an inquiry to find out whether temporary works at the quay would mean the container port would never be built and whether it is in the public interest to build only a temporary site in a wildlife habitat.

The area is an important pit stop for birds migrating south and is a rare source of food for domestic birds in winter because the high salt levels in the water means it doesn’t freeze over easily in winter months.

Young fish also develop in the area and mice and rabbits frequent the area. Harwich FoE said the habitat should not be compromised for economic growth.