Inquiry opens into container port plan

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The Independent Online

Britain's next big environmental battle began yesterday when a public inquiry opened into plans to build a deep-water container port at Dibden Bay, Hampshire, in the proposed New Forest National Park.

Britain's next big environmental battle began yesterday when a public inquiry opened into plans to build a deep-water container port at Dibden Bay, Hampshire, in the proposed New Forest National Park.

The scheme will be a test of official determination to push through big infrastructure projects without the huge delays that preceded the decision to build Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport.

Streamlined planning procedures which the Government will unveil shortly, and which could give permission for big projects by a simple vote in the House of Commons, have been drawn up with schemes such as Dibden Bay very much in mind.

A remarkably broad coalition of green groups insists the environmental damage incurred by constructing the port will far outweigh its economic benefits.

Dibden Bay is west of the port of Southampton. Associated British Ports, which owns the port, wants it to be the site of more than a mile of shipping berths and a 500-acre terminal. It believes the £600m, nine-year development is essential to maintain the prosperity of the port of Southampton, which it says is running out of space.

But environmentalists say the project would set a dangerous precedent and damage one of the most important estuaries in Europe.

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