The biggest inquiry since the Heathrow Terminal Five debacle has been delayed due to a row over the venue.
No new date has been set for the launch of the public inquiry into Associated British Ports' (ABP) proposed £600m development of a deep-water container at Dibden Bay, Southampton. The inquiry is awaiting a date to be announced by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Regeneration, Lord Falconer, to replace the original start date of 30 October. Protestors against the scheme are concerned that the proposed inquiry venue, Stena Terminal, is inappropriate as it is owned by ABP. A source said: "Stena Terminal is within the part of land owned by ABP. Some parties have said it should be on neutral ground." John Hobson QC, Robert Griffiths QC and Thomas Hill, all of 4-5 Gray's Inn Square, are acting for Southampton City Council, the Environment Agency and for residents' associations repectively. Michael Kaplan, senior clerk at 4-5 Gray's Inn, said: "With 6,000 objections to the proposal, it doesn't take too many to kick up a fuss. We just want someone to make a decision." Earlier plans, approved by the inquiry's chairman, to use nearby Esso-owned building Fawley as a venue had to be ditched after Esso pulled out. The company was concerned that it was not the most practical venue. However, Stena Terminal is also said to be an impractical venue as it is in a remote location, with limited accommodation nearby for the inquiry teams. The inquiry will be on a scale approaching the Heathrow Terminal Five inquiry, which is rumoured to have reached a total bill of £80m. The main objectors to the development are Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council, the Environment Agency, and residential groups.