CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand the port of Southampton to land on the fringe of the New Forest could be back on the table.

Speaking during Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s visit to the port today, ABP’s chief executive James Cooper said the port needed to find ways to expand capacity.

“We are short of space here in Southampton which is why we have invested £50m in multi-storey car parks but there is a limit on how many of those we can build in Southampton and we need to be able to support the needs of our major exporting customers,” he said.

The chancellor backed ABP’s ambitions which were important the whole UK economy.

”It is important that key strategic infrastructure that enables our economy to move forward is looked at not just in terms of the local impacts but in terms of the national impacts as well," said Mr Hammond.

A victim of its own success the port of Southampton is losing the space race.

Increased traffic, particularly generated by the cruise ship, container and vehicle export business, has put pressure on the docks to expand.

In its new Master Plan 2016-2035 ABP states: “The Port is effectively nearing capacity. An outcome of this is that trade is being turned away - with consequential negative implications.

"To continue to be a first rate international gateway port over the timescale of the Master Plan the Port will need to expand.”

ABP first proposed building a container terminal at Dibden Bay - a Site of Special Scientific Interest - in 1997 and after a lengthy consultation and planning process the scheme was eventually refused in 2004 by Labour transport secretary Tony McNulty.