‘200 jobs at risk’ over broken sea gate at Glasson Dock

A Lancaster port has warned that hundreds of jobs are at risk, along with its 200-year-old business, because a faulty hydraulic sea gate cannot be lowered to let boats in or out.
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Glasson Dock provides port and wharf facilities for UK and overseas cargo ships including from the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, France and Spain. Cargo can include scrap metal, timber, building materials or fertiliser. It also serves leisure craft.

The dock’s hydraulic sea gate became stuck in a lowered position last year, meaning tides flowed in and out uncontrolled. Silt filled up much of the inner dock and a high water level could not be maintained.

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The Environment Agency and others authorities, including Lancaster City Council staff, delivered sand bags or offered advice to residents and businesses at Glasson last August and September, when there were flooding fears around high seasonal tides.

East Quay cranes at Glasson Dock near Lancaster. Photo: Robbie MacDonaldEast Quay cranes at Glasson Dock near Lancaster. Photo: Robbie MacDonald
East Quay cranes at Glasson Dock near Lancaster. Photo: Robbie MacDonald

Eventually, the broken sea gate was raised using special gear.

But now, the sea gate is stuck upright, meaning ships and boats cannot enter or leave the inner harbour or Glasson Marina, which links to the Lancaster Canal.

Glasson Dock is run by Lancaster Port Commission. This week, the commission said it is in dispute with the Environment Agency over the hydraulic gate.

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On Facebook, the port authority announced: “Lancaster Port Commission is increasing pressure on the Environment Agency to reinstate a working dock gate at the port. The 38-year-old gate acts as a flood defence when raised. When lowered it gives access to the inner dock and neighbouring marina.

“When the Environment Agency took control of the dock gate in September 2023, it was capable of being fully lowered. When it was handed back to the port in February 2024, the dock gate could not be lowered. The gate is now stuck in an upright position. This is preventing boats getting into the marina and it means the port is in breach of its open port duty.

“The trust port at Glasson Dock has been providing import and export facilities to local businesses for over two centuries. Its operations support more than 200 local and regional jobs. All this is at risk because the Environment Agency has changed its position on its responsibility for a working gate.

“For the past three years, the port commission has co-operated with the agency because it believed both parties were working towards the shared goal of an operational gate. Instead, the port commission is left with a gate that is a fixed obstacle which doesn’t work and this threatens the survival of the port.

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“The port commission does not have the millions of pounds required to fix the gate. We have been led to believe the Environment Agency could fund much of the work. The agency now says the cost is for the port to bear.

“It is not just us who are deeply impacted. Our port users, neighbours and community are very concerned. That is why we are speaking publicly about the changed position of the Environment Agency.

“We are taking legal advice and asking for support from government contacts to help us resolve this situation. We will not give up on the future of this port and its community.”

The Environment Agency has been contacted for comment.

Last year, Lancaster Port Commission submitted an official bid to expand its powers and scope . It applied to the government for a harbour revision order. This covers a wide range of functions and powers including port, shipping and dredging work; land and property development, financial powers and charges for port users, planning powers and the ability to make bye-laws.

The order is being handled by the Marine Management Organisation, a government-linked body. A six-week public consultation was held last year. The process was expected to take months and no announcement has yet been made.

Last autumn, Lancaster city councillors formally objected to the port authority’s bid . Councillors claimed it was failing in its key legally-required role to maintain shipping access. They said the key inner dock had become full of silt and the hydraulic sea gate was broken.

The port commission was also redeveloping the east quay fronting the River Lune, which was impacting on Glasson residents, councillors said. Other issues include concerns about how commissioners are selected, land and property development, and the commission’s public accountability,