Southern Daily Echo – 12 June 2009
Port bosses have succeeded in putting controversial plans for a massive new container terminal at Dibden Bay back on the agenda. Associated British Ports (ABP) forced council chiefs in the New Forest to confront their worst fears at a planning inquiry yesterday.
Plans to build a huge container terminal between Marchwood and Hythe were thrown out on environmental grounds in 2004. The decision cost ABP an estimated £50m. But the Daily Echo understands that port experts believe the UK container trade will have doubled by 2021. They claim it is vital that a new Dibden Bay terminal is operational by then to cope with demand if Southampton Docks is to have a future. That would mean work on site would have to start in the next decade.
Last night one Hampshire MP hit out at port bosses over their “obsession” with developing Dibden Bay. New Forest East MP Julian Lewis told the Daily Echo:
“It’s a pity there isn’t an organisation like Alcoholics Anonymous for people obsessed with building unnecessary container ports in wholly inappropriate places.
“After the costly fiasco of their previous failed efforts, one would think that ABP’s shareholders would tell these obsessives to wake up to reality. The reality is that no container terminal will be built at Dibden Bay.”
However, ABP still harbours hopes of developing Dibden Bay and lodged an objection after New Forest District Council published its planning blueprint for the future of sites surrounding the National Park.
ABP bosses challenged the document on the grounds that it failed to safeguard the bay for future port development. At the inquiry yesterday ABP representatives objected to the blueprint saying Dibden Bay was the only site physically capable of accommodating a major expansion of Southampton Docks.
The council refused to earmark Dibden Bay as a site for potential port development but agreed to acknowledge the importance of Southampton Docks to the area. However, the document will also confirm that any future proposal to develop Dibden Bay will have to meet strict environmental criteria.
A council spokesman said:
“If another application is ever submitted, all the hurdles ABP had to climb before – and failed – will have to be climbed again.”
The original scheme sparked a 13-month public inquiry at which ABP insisted that the proposal was vital to the future of the docks. Since the Government’s decision to reject the application, ABP has repeatedly made it clear that it still wants to develop Dibden Bay.