Southampton has finally been given the go-ahead for a major dredging scheme, which will ensure the city's long term future as one of the world's major sea ports.

Consent from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) for the extensive dredge is one of the most important and significant developments as far as the port is concerned in recent years.

It's the second piece of good news in 24 hours for the port, which is set to benefit from last night's announcement of £1.5bn of government money being invested into Southampton and Portsmouth.

Associated British Ports (ABP), owners and operators of Southampton Docks, has been waiting for more than four years for the green light to start the extensive programme of dredging.

The long wait is the result of the highly complex nature of the operation, concerns over the environment and European Union regulations.

The dredging, in Southampton Water and the Solent, is part of a programme of investment centred around improving the capability of the port to receive the largest vessels in the world long into the future.

The MMO's consent marks the final piece in the jigsaw of licences, consents and permissions to complete the scheme.

ABP Port Director Southampton, Doug Morrison, said: “This is fantastic news for the long-term future health of the port, for the 12,000 people reliant on it for work and for our customers who can be assured that we will continue to welcome their vessels to the port in the years to come.”

The work will see the main navigational channel used by commercial shipping deepened from a current minimum depth of 12.6m, at various points along its length of 25 nautical miles. The channel will also be widened to 100m in some areas to allow vessels to pass one another as they enter and exit the port.