Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Fury as Rig Deal Put at Risk by Protests

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Fury as Rig Deal Put at Risk by Protests

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Pardo

Fury erupted today as Able UK bosses revealed that legal fights over the controversial "ghost ships" could scupper a pounds 165m oil rig deal and 500 jobs for Teesside.

Environmentalists who are putting the massive oil rig deal at risk were today subjected to a withering attack by local MPs.

And Able boss Peter Stephenson vowed to fight to the last to save the construction deal and insisted he would appeal against a High Court ruling made yesterday.

Mr Justice Sullivan had ruled in favour of three Hartlepool residents who said planning permission given to Able UK in 1997 to work on "marine structures" did not cover the ghost ships work.

The judge will give his full ruling on Thursday.

But MPs today blasted the latest court ruling and the campaigners behind the legal challenge. Ashok Kumar, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said those opposing the ghost ships deal were a "rag bag of mad men and women who obviously don't appreciate what this work means to our area".

"They should be ashamed of themselves.

"This was an opportunity to provide work for Teesside... to provide work for the area... an opportunity for us."

Instead of celebrating their victory, added Dr Kumar, those responsible for destroying the job prospects of the area "should be hanging their heads in shame".

Stockton North MP Frank Cook described the court's judgment as "preposterous".

He said: "It seems a bloody daft decision and to my mind Able UK should appeal."

He was especially outraged at reported comments from environmental protester Ben Marley, a student who said the chemical industry was not the kind of industry wanted on Teesside.

"How does he clean his teeth or scrub his back?" demanded Mr Cook.

"The number of chemicals we use goes beyond measure and he says we don't want chemicals on Teesside. Well where does he want them? Is he going to put them at the North Pole?

"What is he studying at college? I'd like to get someone to wind up his alarm clock so he wakes up to reality."

Mr Justice Sullivan had said yesterday: "In my judgment as a matter of ordinary English one describes a ship as a ship as one describes a spade as a spade and not a garden structure," said the judge. …

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