'DIBDEN BAY DEVELOPMENT "LESS LIKELY UNDER TORIES" '

Lymington Times – 14 November 2009

A Conservative Government would make the building of a container port at Dibden Bay even more unlikely, New Forest East MP Julian Lewis has declared. In a letter to Associated British Ports (ABP), Dr Lewis suggested bosses had revived their proposal in the 'sinister' hope that a new Government planning body would be more likely to give approval than an Inquiry, such as the one in 2001–02.

He pledged that, if elected, the Tories would scrap the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) which was created only last month to speed up major planning decisions, because it ignored democratic accountability.  He said:

"All the organisations, interest groups and elected local authorities which opposed the Dibden Bay port scheme last time, resolutely oppose it now – and so do I, as the local MP. It is a mystery why ABP thinks that its prospects of success will be any better in the midst of an economic recession than they were in more prosperous times past.

"The Infrastructure Planning Commission, on which ABP is probably relying, will not survive a change of Government. This scheme has caused great anguish and anxiety in years gone by: there is no justification for reviving it now."

Dr Lewis pointed to the words of Conservative Shadow Planning Minister Bob Neill, who wrote in a Sunday newspaper that he would scrap the IPC because it

"will have the ability to ride roughshod over public opinion and impose major projects ... on local communities".

Mr Neill also criticised the IPC as being designed to

"base its decisions on national policy statements issued by ministers with no substantive vote in Parliament".

Dr Lewis said he suspected as untrue ABP’s official line that the port proposal was back on the agenda only because the Government had encouraged major transport industry firms to draw up long-term 'Master Plans'.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission has been described by the Government as a

"fairer, faster and more inclusive system for making decisions about nationally significant infrastructure projects".

Dr Lewis added:

"Dibden Bay could not be located in a worse position as a potential container port. Its foreshore has been granted the most stringent protected status, which can be overridden only when there is absolutely no alternative. It is next door to one of the most beautiful landscapes in England, which it would irreparably degrade. It is served by utterly inadequate road and rail connections, which would be chaked by container traffic.

"Finally, to add to the general misery, it is sandwiched between the communities of Marchwood and Hythe, where a natural gap would be replaced by an overpowering, intrusive and very noisy neighbour."