'STILL CIRCLING: THE JAWS OF DIBDEN BAY'

By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 21 July 2009

Take a look at the following sentence:

"Just as you thought you were safe to put your toe back in the water, we are back again. And we are not going to go away".

Doesn’t it remind you of the poor swimmer, in the opening scene of JAWS, who comes to a sticky end? So, who is casting himself in the role of man-eating shark? None other than ABP’s Port Director, Doug Morrison, recently interviewed by the Echo.

This is par for the course. I remember the opening session of the year-long Public Inquiry into Dibden Bay in 2001. "What a shower!" exclaimed one of Mr Morrison’s predecessors – referring to those of us who opposed the building of a container port. Yet, we were the shower who rained on ABP’s parade – and we shall do it again if necessary.

During that Inquiry, the company failed to present any overriding economic reason for the destruction of a protected site. It could not deny that Southampton’s deep-water channel would never accommodate the larger breed of container ship. It could not explain how the A326, already overloaded, would cope with endless container convoys. And it offered no remedy for light and noise pollution blighting Hythe and Marchwood, seven days a week.

When the chairman of Residents Against Dibden Bay Port, Paul Vickers, suggested the alternative of developing the Southampton Container Terminal, this was dismissed as unrealistic. Yet, five years later, ABP announced just such a "huge expansion" of the SCT site.

Why does Mr Morrison think that ABP will get further in the future than it did in the past? The roads will be no wider. The dredged channel will be no deeper. The foreshore will remain just as sensitive for wildlife; and the villages near the Bay just as vulnerable to disturbance.

Forest and Waterside residents want to look on the Port of Southampton with affection. It is sad that this sentiment seems far from reciprocated. ABP’s bosses should remember what happened to the shark at the end of the film.