By Chris Yandell
Southern Daily Echo – 7 November 2016
One of Hampshire's top politicians has warned the government that a container terminal at Dibden Bay would have a "devastating" impact on neighbouring communities. Julian Lewis, Tory MP for New Forest East, has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond following the revelation that plans to develop the environmentally-sensitive site are likely to be revived.
Associated British Ports (ABP) say the existing docks are rapidly running out of space. During a visit to Southampton last week, Mr Hammond backed ABP's ambitions, saying they were important to the whole UK economy. His comments came more than a decade after previous plans for a new terminal at Dibden Bay were rejected after a huge environmental battle.
In his letter, Dr Lewis cites Mr Hammond's apparent endorsement of ABP's intention to "bring this notorious scheme back to life".
"For six long years this horrifying prospect was the dominant issue in New Forest East and there was huge relief and jubilation when, after a year-long public inquiry, ABP's plan was blocked in 2004. Apart from its foreshore being heavily-protected by environmental designations, the reclaimed land at Dibden Bay adjoins the villages of Marchwood and Dibden.
"The effect of having a huge container port in this location on the edge of the New Forest would be intolerable for large numbers of my constituents, not only those living on either tide of Dibden Bay. The noise, congestion and light pollution of a 24-hour port operation on their doorsteps would be devastating."
Dr Lewis also warns that the A326 Totton to Hythe road would rapidly become a "nightmare" for thousands of motorists. And he calls on the government to honour its previous pledge that changes to the planning system will not reduce the protection given to Dibden Bay.
As reported in the Daily Echo, any application to develop the massive site will be considered by a new body called National Infrastructure Planning. Dr Lewis' letter says:
"When the Infrastructure Bill was going through parliament I repeatedly sought assurances that the degree of protection for places like Dibden Bay would not be lessened. Such assurances were given to me publicly by the relevant minister at the despatch box. My constituents expect them to be honoured for the simple reason that some areas are simply inappropriate locations for a huge container port."
ABP's renewed interest in Dibden Bay is revealed in its new Master Plan, which extends to 2035. The document says:
"The port is effectively nearing capacity. An outcome of this is that trade is being turned away - with consequential negative implications. To continue to be a first-rate international gateway port over the timescale of the Master Plan the port will need to expand."