The Avonmouth and Royal Edward Dock complex, the City Docks and Portishead, served the Port of Bristol well for fifty years but expansion was needed for the port to remain competitive. Attention focused on Portbury and by the early 1960s plans were drawn up for the West Dock. Despite having strong support in Bristol, there were those who campaigned against the proposal. Successive governments repeatedly failed to give the scheme the go-ahead.

Some of those in support commented:

If we do not go forward as a greatly enlarged port to serve the West of England, the Midlands and other adjacent areas, we shall lose our place in competition with other ports. Alderman Parish, 1964.

"Portbury is a must. There is no port in the country, which can properly take the 80,000-ton ships being built now. We must have a deep-water port on the Bristol Channel capable of taking these ships."

Frederick Huckman, President of the Bristol Timber Importers' Association

Whilst some against it said:

"By all means let us have development to relieve the congestion at London and Liverpool, but not at the expense of Newport."

-Harold Jenkins, representative of Welsh ports

"I have no desire to live on the windward side of a dock."

-Maurice Keen, resident of Portbury

Government approval was finally won in 1971 and work began a year later. The Royal Portbury Dock as it was renamed opened for business in 1977. Today it is the core of one of the fastest-growing ports in the country.

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