Contracts, claims and controversy: The history of the ghost ships in Hartlepool

The ghost ships in Graythorpe
The ghost ships in Graythorpe
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July 2003: Able UK announces it has won an 11m contract to dismantle 13 American naval vessels at its ship yard at Graythorpe.

October 2003: Hartlepool Borough Council meet to discuss planning permission. But the Environment Agency rules there are no valid licences in place.

November 2003: The first of four ghost ships docks in Hartlepool.

December 2003: The High Court rules that Able UK does not have the necessary permissions in place and the company is told to re-apply.

January 2004: Able UK submits new plans for the dismantling of the ships.

May 2005: The Environment Agency objects to Able UK’s new application.

June 2006: Environment Agency does a U-turn and English Nature follows suit, meaning there are no statutory objectors.

September 2006: A report to the council’s planning committee recommends the plans be given the go-ahead.

October 2006: The planning committee rejects Able UK’s application, but the company appeal.

June 2007: The council decides not to contest Able’s appeal, meaning it is now a formality for the company’s proposals to be approved.

October 5, 2007: Councillors defer the decision to grant Able UK permission.

October 9, 2007: A three-week Planning Inspectorate hearing starts in Hartlepool. It was lodged by Able UK following the council’s rejection of its plans.

October 26, 2007: The council’s planning committee give Able UK the green light to dismantle the controversial ghost ships.

November 2007: Lawyers representing Able UK submit an application to claw back the full costs of the planning inquiry.

May 8, 2008: Able UK wins its legal challenge to scrap the ghost ships, leaving taxpayers to possibly pick up the £1m legal bill.

May 2008: Able UK applies to the Health and Safety Executive for an exemption to allow it to bring in the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau, which contains 700 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated material.

June 26, 2008: The Environment Agency grants Able UK a waste management licence. The HSE grants an exemption allowing the company to bring in the Clemenceau.

September 3, 2008: An eleventh hour legal bid is launched to prevent the Clemenceau being scrapped in Hartlepool.

The papers were lodged at the High Court in London by the Public Interest Lawyers group, which represented Friends of Hartlepool in previous legal challenges against the so-called ghost ships.

November 14, 2008: Law Lords clear the way for the Clemenceau to be scrapped in Hartlepool. They dismiss a legal challenge by environmental campaigners to prevent the huge ship being dismantled here.

February 3, 2009: The aircraft carrier finally leaves Brest in France following delays due to the weather and makes its way to Hartlepool.

February 8, 2009: Le Clemenceau arrives at Able UK’s Graythorp site following a successful towing operation.

May 2009: Work to build the cofferdam to create a dry dock was finished to allow the water to be pumped out. Work to remove asbestos-contaminated material from the vessels gets underway.

January 2010: Able UK bosses say they expect the fleet of ships to be dismantled by the summer, once dismantling work gets underway in the New Year.

January 29, 2010: Taxpayers are forced to pick up a bill of £470,000 after Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs settled a claim with Able UK over the controversial ghost ships saga.