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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 13:08 GMT
Head to head: 'Super-port' plans
A major environmental battle is under way over a proposal to build a huge "super-port" development within a national park.

Associated British Ports, which takes its plans before public inquiry on Tuesday, wants to build the giant facility on a 202 hectare site at Dibden Bay on Southampton Water.

The site is within the boundary of the New Forest National Park.

Ian Willmore from environmental group Friends of the Earth argues that the proposed port would be damaging to local wildlife and local people.

But Associated British Ports says the port is vital for trade and the regional economy depends on its success.

Ian Willmore, Friends of the Earth

The scheme is opposed by most local people and would be extremely damaging to the environment.

The important sites it would destroy enjoy national and international legal "protection" because of the rare animals and plants that depend on them.

They include one of the very few major sheltered channels in European waters between a substantial island and mainland.

The area is considered to be one of the best in the country for Atlantic salt meadows, and also one of the best estuaries and best reefs.

Examples of bird species that will be driven from their homes include lapwings, Brent geese, oyster catchers, ringling grey plovers, dunlin, curlew, widgeon, teal and redshanks.

Local people would also find their quality of life damaged by another 5,000 vehicle movements every day - many by giant lorries - as well as by 24 hour a day, 365 day a year operations.

Here is a giant company trying to trample all over environmental principles and the wishes of local people

No wonder the super-port is opposed by government advisers English Nature, as well as by the Environment Agency, the Countryside Agency, the Ramblers Association, the RSPB, the Council for National Parks and Hampshire County Council.

ABP have miserably failed to show that there is a real economic case for the port, or that they have looked properly at any alternatives.

If Planning Minister Lord Falconer gets his undemocratic way, Dibden may be the last major planning inquiry of its kind. He wants approval of large projects to be agreed in advance on a whipped vote of New Labour MPs.

So much for public involvement in major public decisions. So much for environmental protection.

The Dibden Bay case shows just why a proper planning system is so vital.

Here is a giant company trying to trample all over environmental principles and the wishes of local people. The public inquiry offers at least a chance of stopping them.

If Lord Falconer had got his way by now, Captain Chestnut and his merry mates would already be firing up their bulldozers.

Associated British Ports

An island nation is dependent on its sea trade and on a competitive ports industry with the capacity to meet foreseeable demand. UK deep-sea container traffic has doubled in 12 years and is set to double again.

Without future development near European deep-sea shipping lanes, UK trade will be diverted to continental hub ports and shuttled to and from the UK on feeder ships.

This will cost exporters time and money and raise UK shop prices to compensate for higher import costs.

European competitor ports have plans for 13,420 metres of new quay-line

The regional economy depends on the port's success

Southampton's Dibden Terminal would be on a man-made, reclaimed site opposite the current port.

The area has long been reserved for the fourth phase of Southampton's port development and has a proposed quay-line of 1,850 metres.

Southampton cannot stand still. If it cannot meet expansion demands of world shipping alliances they will take their trade and our jobs to continental ports that can.

The regional economy depends on the port's success.

Port related industries have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in recent years.

They contribute 1.3bn every year to the local economy and support more than 11,000 jobs in the local area.

The Dibden Terminal will help secure current jobs and will create around 3,000 extra jobs.

The proposal is supported by many organisations including regional businesses, the shipping industry, the trade unions and Southampton City Council

It is a model project for balancing the needs of the environment and the community with those of jobs and the regional economy

The environmental package is on an unprecedented scale for a project of this size, including the creation of a mile-long creek

Environmental bodies, community groups and the public have been consulted and involved for several years.

See also:

27 Nov 01 | England
Green battle over port begins
10 Oct 01 | England
Port will 'blight' national park
12 Sep 01 | UK
Birds may curb port plan
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