CAMPAIGNERS fear that Associated British Ports is poised to submit a successful bid to take over one of Hampshire's biggest military bases.

They spoke out after representatives from the Ministry of Defence met councillors at a behind-closed-doors session today to discuss the future of Marchwood Military Port.

The 330-acre facility is set to be sold or leased by the MoD as part of a nationwide bid to raise £500m.

Liverpool-based Peel Ports is also understood to be interested in the site, but the MoD is still refusing to name any of the potential bidders.

Speaking after the private, invitation-only meeting Marchwood county councillor David Harrison said: “The MoD is planning to lease part of the centre to a commercial organisation, which will almost certainly be ABP.

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

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

An MoD spokesman said: “The sale of Marchwood was announced as part of the last Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010.

“Engagement with the market has begun with a formal invitation to industry to express an interest on May 16.

“Following the evaluation of responses, we hope to choose a shortlist next month. Subject to value for money being demonstrated, we aim to complete the transaction in early 2015.”

As reported in the Daily Echo, a total of 25 parties have expressed an interest in the port.

ABP chiefs are keen to use it as a car storage facility, creating up to 400 jobs.

The scheme would be similar to the multi-storey car compounds that already exist at Southampton Docks.

Campaigners have raised concerns over ABP's plans, saying they could lead to traffic problems in and around the Marchwood area.

But ABP has denied any interest in building a container terminal - the main fear of councillors and residents.

An ABP spokesman was unavailable for comment.