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The Only Way is Essex: A Case Study

'This proposal opens the way for new international business on a scale rarely seen in the South Eastern corner of the UK in the last 50 years.' Sir Brian Shaw, Chairman of the Port of London Authority (2000)

In September 2000, P&O entered into an agreement with Shell to develop the site of their recently closed oil refinery in Essex. The 1,500 acre brownfield site, with a river Thames frontage of two miles, presented a unique opportunity to create the largest new port in the UK, just 25 miles from central London, with capacity for 3.5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) and an integrated logistics park.

Preparatory work started immediately to carry out the necessary environmental, engineering and transport studies in support of a planning application lodged in 2002. The application went to an inquiry in 2003 and only after a further two years was the 'minded to approve' letter given by the Government in 2005.

For P&O, London Gateway, as the project became known, perfectly combined the Company’s experience in developing ports and property. For DP World, London Gateway was an important part of an attractive pipeline of developments the acquisition of P&O brought. 'London Gateway will provide the world class service that our customers have come to expect from DP World across the globe, using the most advanced equipment and technology. London Gateway’s location is unique, bringing the world’s largest ships directly to Europe’s largest logistics park, providing long-term value for our customers and UK business.’ Mohammed Sharaf, Group CEO, DP World

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DP World set to work on obtaining final planning permissions and preparing the site for future construction. With protected wildlife and Iron Age and Roman remains to consider, DP World worked closely with Essex County Council, English Heritage and Oxford Archaeology on one of the largest sites investigated by archaeologists in Essex for over a century. The dig at Mucking Flats, three miles from the new port, lasted 10 months and recorded some remarkable finds. Many dated back 2,300 and 1,700 years and related to the production of salt in the Thames Estuary, an important industry which aided the early development of London as a city. All the finds were recorded and preserved for future generations.

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For the wildlife and birds, a new 30 hectare site of intertidal mudflats was created as a habitat and ideal feeding area for avocets, dunlins, black tailed godwits and many other species of birds. Beneath the sea DP World unearthed more treasures from the past in the course of dredging the deeper, navigational approach channels to the site. As the gateway to London, the area was rich in marine archaeology from Bronze Age paddles to 17th Century frigates and relics of German aircraft from the Second World War. DP World worked extensively with the Port of London Authority, Wessex Archaeology and other authorities to preserve and record this rich history beneath the sea.

By the end of the decade, London Gateway had started to take shape and DP World’s role in contributing to the future of maritime trade on the Thames, as well as preserving its long past, was well established.