Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Residents Against Dibden Bay Port (P 01)



  This submission provides comment on four of the major themes described in the document "Modern Ports—A UK Policy". These themes are:

    (1)  The need for our ports to match the demanding expectations of the shipping industry (Section 2.1.6.).

    (2)  The need to prove that there is no alternative to proposed new developments (Sections 2.4.12, 2.4.19, 2.4.21).

    (3)  The presumption in favour of making the best use of existing infrastructure (Sections 2.1.15, 2.4.3, 2.4.10, 2.4.15).

    (4)  The need to take into account environmental and social impacts (Sections 2.1.17, 2.4.17).

  Please note that this document references the official objections (RADBP) submitted to the DETR on Associated British Ports (ABP) Harbour Revision Order for Dibden Bay.[1]


  This section refers specifically to the need for ports to have deep approaches and the widest possible tidal windows. In the container industry, the major North West European Ports such as Rotterdam and Antwerp have standardised on 14.5 metres for their approach channels. In fact Felixstowe, the UK's major container port attained this channel depth in 2000. By comparison, Associated British Ports make no mention of the potential need to dredge the channel into the Port of Southampton for the proposed Dibden Bay container terminal. The current approach from Portsmouth (known as the Nab) via Southampton Water is restricted to 12.6 metres. We believe that this limitation will have a significant impact on the future viability of a container port at Dibden Bay, and consequently, the need to dredge the channel should have been included in the original Harbour Revision Order.


  At this moment in time, there are three major container port developments at various stages in the planning process ie P&O's proposed redevelopment of the redundant Shell Refinery in Essex (3.5 million TEUs), Harwich, Bathside (1.7 million TEUs), and Dibden Bay (2.4 million TEUs). In addition to these, a new berth is being built at Tilbury (0.3 million TEUs) and two further berths are planned at Felixstowe (0.5 million TEUs). Given the demand on the South East container ports in 1999 was a total of 4.9 million TEUs, it has to be concluded that not all of the above developments can be supported.

  Wherever port development takes place there will be some environmental and social impact. However, it is our contention that UK demand can be easily satisfied without touching Dibden Bay at locations where the impact is relatively low.

P&O Shell Haven
Harwich Bathside
Dibden Bay
Is the development on a Brownfield site
Is the foreshore protected
Is there a road and rail infrastructure in place
Is the local council in favour of the plan
Is the local MP in favour of the plan
What is the local level of unemployment


  RADBP maintain that ABP do not make best use of its existing container port facilities. Vast areas of the port of Southampton are given over to the car import/export trade or to activities that are not port related, but are resident in the docks. Using ABP's own data, it can be seen that there is a massive productivity gap between the existing Southampton Container Terminal (SCT) and the proposed container port at Dibden Bay.

Existing Terminal
Dibden Bay
Length of quay available for container ship berths
2.18 kms
1.8 kms
Number of berths available
Current throughput (TEUs)
1 million
Planned throughput (TEUs)
Not stated
2.4 million
Labour productivity Containers per employee per year
TEUs handled per metre of quay per year

  Please note that the existing terminal is only using four out of an available seven berths for container ships. Two berths are used for cars and one berth is idle.

  RADBP maintain that no development of Dibden Bay can be justified as long as there are alternative brownfield sites in South East England and as long as such a large productivity gap exists between the existing terminal in Southampton and the proposed port at Dibden Bay.


  Southampton Water is a very narrow waterway, consequently any environmental impact is accentuated. By comparison, the Thames at Shell Haven is two miles wide and the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich sit directly on the estuary. English Nature, the Environmental Agency, Hampshire Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are all opposed to the Dibden Bay plan. They believe it will be environmentally damaging and that the proposed mitigation and compensation measures will not work.

  It is significant that ABP do not plan to put in place the compensation measures and prove that they are viable before they destroy Dibden Bay. This is completely at odds with the Ports Policy document section 2.4.22, which requires the developer to safeguard the coherence of the protected sites. Also, in a written response to a Parliamentary question regarding the protection of Ramsar sites (13 December 2000), Michael Meacher stated that any new habitat must have a reasonable expectation of being successful and that it must be delivered within a timescale that secures the continuing nature conservation interests of any species present. We do not believe that the ABP plan for Dibden Bay satisfies any of these requirements.

  From the social point of view, the proposed development at Dibden Bay will be devastating. The local communities of Hythe, Dibden and Marchwood have never been made aware that a port development was a possibility. These townships have been in place for many years and very little housing has been built in the last ten years. The Dibden Bay development will be closer to the local population than any other similar development in the UK. Furthermore, the local population would be expected to endure nine continuous years of construction activity.


  Associated British Port's Harbour Revision Order for the planned Container Port at Dibden Bay does not meet the intent of the Ports Policy in a number of key areas.

    (1)  Omission of the need to improve the approach channel.

    (2)  Inadequate consideration given to alternative sites in South East England.

    (3)  Low productivity in the existing port.

    (4)  An inadequate environmental assessment, which proposes unproven mitigation measures and provides no continuity of habitat.

    (5)  Unacceptable impact on the local population.

Eur Ing Mr F P Vickers

Chairman—Residents Against Dibden Bay Port

27 December 2000

1   Not printed. Contact RADBP for details. Back

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