CAMPAIGNERS have been warned that new plans to develop Dibden Bay could be unveiled before the end of the year.
The forecast has been issued by a top planning officer who has been involved in talks with Associated British Ports (ABP) over the future of the 500-acre site near Hythe.
Chris Elliott, 63, is about to retire as New Forest District Council’s head of economy, housing and planning.
ABP’s application to turn Dibden Bay into a huge container terminal was thrown out by the previous Labour government after a 13-month public inquiry.
In a decision celebrated by thousands of Waterside residents, ministers said the environmental impact of the £600 million terminal would be too great.
The new threat to Dibden Bay was revealed by the Daily Echo last October following the publication of ABP’s Master Plan 2016-2035.
Now the company has revealed that an updated version of the document is due to be released in the autumn.
Campaigners are waiting to discover if the new Dibden Bay scheme is similar or identical to the one rejected in 2004.
Mr Elliott cited Chancellor Philip Hammond’s tour of Southampton docks last October – and said other ministers were likely to visit the city in the run-up to the general election.
He added: “We will see Dibden Bay proposals coming back, possibly before the end of this year.
“We’re in a very different political context from before – it’s no surprise Philip Hammond was down there recently. Between now and June 8 we can expect a lot of other government ministers to visit.”
Asked about the prospect of a new Dibden Bay scheme Mr Elliott he said it was vital that any facilities were accompanied by the necessary infrastructure.
He added: “Personally I think it’s a shame but you have to have development – it drives the economy. If it’s important for UK PLC that the docks expand, then let’s make sure we get it right.”
ABP Southampton director Alastair Welch stopped short of confirming that new, more detailed plans for Dibden Bay would be unveiled later this year.
But he told the Daily Echo: “Having consulted on our masterplan in late 2016 we anticipate publishing our updated masterplan in autumn 2017.”
ABP sparked fury in the 1990s by applying for planning permission to build a six-berth container terminal on reclaimed coastline between Hythe and Marchwood.
Company bosses said the scheme was vital to the future of Southampton docks.
But the scheme, which would have created 1,800 jobs, sparked massive opposition from local authorities and leading conservation groups.