Monday, 8 February 2010

New Forest councillors expect more proposals to expand docks

A new attempt to build a massive dock development at Dibden Bay is “inevitable”, say council chiefs.

They issued the warning after criticising the Government’s new policy statement on the future of UK ports, saying it failed to protect the environmentally sensitive site.

The newly-formed Infrastructure Planning Commission will be guided by the statement if Associated British Ports (ABP) submits another proposal to develop Dibden Bay.

Critics say the document demands a market-led approach to port expansion instead of calling for new docks to be built in the least damaging places.

A report to New Forest District Council’s ruling Cabinet said: “The statement does not indicate the locations at which further port capacity could be provided.

“This is to be determined through competition ‘subject to developers satisfying decision-makers that the likely impacts of any proposed development have been addressed’.

“This provides an inadequate basis for the commission to properly determine proposals.

“The statement should be clearer about the appropriate locations for major port development, having regard to international designations, impacts on local communities and other relevant considerations.”

Councillors stressed the need for proper safeguards, saying it said it was “inevitable” that ABP would submit another application.

Chris Elliott, head of the council’s planning and development control unit, warned that the new policy statement failed to reflect the importance of the recently created New Forest National Park, which adjoins Dibden Bay.

David Harrison, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, was also scathing.

He said: “Here we see not only an attempt to move the goal posts but the possibility of replaying the match with the goal posts set wider apart.”

Cabinet members agreed that the council should lobby the Department for Transport in a bid to save Dibden Bay.

The authority will call for any new docks to be built in places where they will have a minimal impact on local communities.

ABP’s application to construct a £600m container terminal at Dibden Bay was rejected by the Government in 2004 following a 13-month public inquiry.

Ministers refused to allow the scheme because of its effect on nationally and internationally important wildlife sites.

But ABP’s Port of Southampton Masterplan, published last summer, predicts that the docks will see a surge in trade over the next 20 years.

The document claims that Dibden Bay is the only suitable site for much-needed port expansion.

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