MINISTRY of Defence chiefs have been accused of failing to consult the public over the future of Marchwood Military Port.

Campaigners spoke out after MoD representatives met councillors behind closed doors yesterday to update them on the future of the 330-acre facility, which is set to be sold by the MoD as part of a nationwide bid to raise £500m.

Associated British Ports (ABP) has expressed an interest in the site, sparking fears that road and rail traffic in the area will increase if the company is allowed to take over the port.

Liverpool-based Peel Ports is also eyeing up the facility, which occupies a prime site on the western shore of Southampton Water.

One of those who attended the private, invitation-only meeting at Marchwood Village Hall said: “It was a briefing, not a consultation.”

Sue Bennison, a district councillor for the area, added: “The MoD is not consulting those most affected – the people who live near the port.

“The A326 and Bury Road are already chock-a-block at certain times of the day. The railway line is only lightly used at the moment but families living beside the track are likely to have a very uncomfortable time if this all goes through.

“However, the MoD has agreed to receive a letter highlighting local concerns and this will be passed on to those interested in tendering.”

David Harrison, county councillor for Marchwood and Totton South, also attended the 90-minute briefing.

He said: “My fear is that a bid will be accepted from ABP, giving them a foothold on the Waterside.

“That will have a high number of negative impacts, including the possibility of large cranes, noise and other environmental concerns.”

The MoD said it hoped to compile a shortlist of potential buyers next month and complete the transaction early next year.

Marchwood is home to 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, which will remain at the port.

But ABP is keen to use part of the site as a car storage facility, creating up to 400 jobs in a scheme similar to the multi-storey car compounds at Southampton Docks.

Last night the MoD hit back at claims it had failed to carry out a proper consultation exercise.

A spokesman said: “The MoD has had regular contact with representatives of local groups, including yesterday’s meeting with councillors, both before and since the announcement to sell Marchwood.”

ABP and Peel Ports were both unavailable for comment.