Dibden Bay is back - plans to double Southampton's port

Peter Henley
Political editor, South of England
@BBCPeterHon Twitter

image captionChancellor Phillip Hammond visited Southampton docks earlier

The chief executive of Associated British Ports (ABP) has said the company will be seeking permission for a major expansion of Southampton Docks.

The Dibden Bay development would double the size of the existing docks by using reclaimed land on the New Forest side of Southampton Water.

An application 12 years ago was resisted by naturalist groups and local campaigners and was rejected after a year-long inquiry which cost ABP £40m.

During a visit to Southampton earlier by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond, ABP re-stated its case to expand Southampton, saying it was having to turn business away.

ABP chief executive James Cooper said: "We do have to find a way to expand the capacity of this port to handle Britain's trade.

"There are jobs at the docks and all the way back through the supply chain to the manufacturers as well, it's all important to the British economy."

image captionBy 2030 Southampton forecast exports of 840,000 vehicles a year through the docks

Mr Hammond, who said the government would back the application, added: "It is a very important part of Britain's infrastructure, a vital enabler of Britain's exporters who will play an ever more important role as we leave the European Union."

An application to build new facilities on the 800-hectare Dibden Bay site was rejected by a planning inspector in 2004 after a lengthy public inquiry.

Campaigners argued that it would destroy grazing marsh and mudflats which provides winter homes for 50,000 birds.

Since then the planning system has been changed to enable national infrastructure projects to be determined directly by central government, something the chancellor denied was a way of over-riding local opinion.

'Short of space'

Mr Hammond said "It is very important that key strategic infrastructure that enables our economy to move forward is looked at not just in terms of the local impacts but in terms of the national impacts as well."

By 2030 Southampton forecast exports of 840,000 vehicles a year through the docks, up from 700,000, and 4.2 million containers, up from 2.7 million.

ABP's Mr Cooper said the development could be complete by 2026.

"A number of our major customers have announced expansion plans which we will have to support," he added.

"We are short of space here in Southampton which is why we have invested £50m in multi-storey car parks but there is a limit on how many of those we can build in Southampton and we need to be able to support the needs of our major exporting customers."

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