LOCAL GOVERNMENT – DIBDEN BAY & PLANNING – 21 May 2007
Dr Julian Lewis: It took a five-year campaign and a year-long public inquiry to stop Associated British Ports from building a huge container port at Dibden Bay on the edge of the New Forest. Does the Secretary of State accept that in many cases the larger the proposal, the wiser it is to allow a long time to elapse before a decision is made? I believe that if that process had been foreshortened, there would now be a huge container port on the edge of the New Forest. I also believe that we would not have heard the admission last September that what the protesters had said all along was true, and that, having denied it for all those years, ABP could massively increase the productivity of its existing container port – which, indeed, it is now proceeding to do.
[The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Ruth Kelly): I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The Dibden Bay application process cost £45 million, and ultimately the application was turned down. I understand that part of the reason was the impact on biodiversity. That could have been identified at the beginning of the process, during the drawing up of the national policy statement. In fact, it is precisely the sort of issue that ought to be identified in a national policy statement. If it had been identified then, there would have been appropriate public consultation, the developers would have known the Government's proposals and policy, and the proposal would either have been accepted or would never have got off the ground, because the policy would have been made clear at the start. That must be a more effective system.]