Marchwood Military Port

Introduction

The Marchwood Military Port or Marchwood Sea Mounting Centre as it is known by the MOD sits adjacent to a strategic land reserve acquired in the 1960’s by ABP who have wanted to expand their facilities from across Southampton waters ever since. ¬†This facility has been here since 1943, but with the “Cold war” over, the government are cutting back on their assets. ¬†This has already been a very visible process in Portsmouth with areas such as the very popular Gun Wharf shopping centre now available to the public. ¬†In the latter part of 2013, construction was started on a Park and Ride scheme at Tipner, which is now open and proving to be very popular. ¬†Additionally, similar MOD facilities in Gosport are being sold to the private sector.

An Opportunity for Jobs, Prosperity and improved Transport Infrastructure

Peter Luff, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence at the time said;-

“I can reaffirm the intention to sell Marchwood (Military Port). However, our analysis has led us to conclude that the preferred option is to continue to meet the sea mounting requirement from the same site. This will ensure that the military outputs can still be met while allowing greater economic and commercial benefit to be realised from the site. In doing so we envisage a much closer relationship between the MOD and industry in delivering these capabilities from a privately owned sea mounting centre.”

Selling the port has been the MOD’s intention for more than a decade, but now it is clear that the government feel that the best use of tax payers money is to put the port to civilian use, but with the proviso that it can still be used for military use when necessary. ¬†However, there is one very important issue to be resolved and that is a public consultation on the effects of the port going into private hands. ¬†If the new owner wants to operate the port in a similar way to how it is operated currently, then no additional planning permission will be required. ¬†If no planning permission is required, then an opportunity for the public to have their say will be lost. ¬†If the new operator then decides to step up the usage of the port by rail and road, this will have devastating knock-on consequences to the presently overstrained local road infrastructure. ¬†Imagine if it all went to rail. ¬†Good for not directly contributing to the A326 congestion, but how frequently would the Totton rail crossing gates be closed to traffic at such places as Jacob’s Gutter Lane, Trotts Lane and Travells Lane? ¬†This scenario however is unlikely since HGVs transporting such things as cars for export will without doubt add to the strain of the Marchwood By-pass (and the Redbridge Flyover, M271, etc.). ¬†Even if the new port operator did want to expand their operation, ports have something called “General Permitted Development Order”, ¬†which means they are exempt from certain planning regulations and therefore do not have to apply for planning permission. ¬†Not applying for planning permission means that future opportunities for public consultation over the effects to them will be lost. ¬†A precedent has been set locally in West End, Eastleigh when in the 1990s the NAAFI distribution depot that had been there since the 1st World War was sold off to private ownership. ¬†As it already had planning permission to be used as a distribution depot, there was no change to the planning permission the site enjoyed. ¬†The new owners wanting to maximize on their investment, increased the HGV traffic from a few lorry movements a week to hundreds a day. ¬†This was all on a narrow Burnetts Lane, obviously unsuitable for such volume of traffic. ¬†Since there was no public consultation at the outset, no solution to the burgeoning problem was sought and now, many public enquiries later, several of which were led by the Eastleigh MP of the time, Chris Huhne, a solution is finally looking to be found. ¬†This is only because of a proposed housing development that will pay for a link road to Bubb Lane from the entrance to Chalcroft Distribution Park through Developers Contributions to the infrastructure.

According to the Daily Echo, a report commissioned by Michael Fallon, Minister for Portsmouth linked to the Solent Strategic Economic Plan recommends:-

  • Improving and increasing capacity transport links between and access to Southampton, Portsmouth and Marchwood ports
  • Creating marine manufacturing hubs in both cities and the Isle of Wight for key firms to work more closely with councils, educational and research establishments
  • Developing a national training centre to improve manufacturing techniques in the marine, oil, gas and construction industries
  • Greater flexibility for Further Education (FE) colleges to adapt the national curriculum to meet local industry skills demands
  • Creating five new science, technology, engineering mathematics (STEM) centres.

In addition, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (Solent LEP), a decentralized government body have published a report “Transforming Solent” that paints a positive picture about how this project can bring jobs and therefore prosperity to the area. ¬†The report talks about existing transport infrastructure, but this could represent a fantastic opportunity to open up access to the Fawley peninsula by easing traffic congestion on the Marchwood By-pass by lengthening it and bringing back into operation the Totton & Waterside railway.

I would be interested in your view. What would you like to see at this site?  Write to me by e-mail and/or sign the No. 10 petition demanding that government consult us on the future of the port and its promise to fund an improvement to the Marchwood by-pass.