DISAPPOINTMENT has been expressed that a waterfront area earmarked for housing and retail could now become an extension to the Port of Southampton.

That is the fear of Totton and Marchwood Councillor David Harrison following the announcement that port owners ABP had acquired Eling Wharf in a multi-million pound deal.

"I'm extremely disappointed at this turn of events. This is a site with huge potential," said Cllr Harrison, who represents the area on new Forest District council.

Over the past five years previous owners Burt Boulton Holdings (BBH) had been discussion with the council and residents over plans to build housing and a supermarket at the 41-acre site – a scheme which the developers said could create 350 jobs.

"It had been earmarked for much-needed housing, leisure and retail facilities," said Cllr Harrison.

"We could have got rid of the those horrible containers which overshadow the quay and had a beautiful waterfront walk. Now that's all been ditched in favour of more intensive use of the site for port-related activities."

Cllr Harrison added that the previous plans for the site had included new access, leading directly off the A35.

Currently huge containers lorries are forced to use narrow access roads, including High Street, round-the clock.

ABP says their purchase of the wharf "is designed to secure employment and the key role the wharf plays in supporting the Port of Southampton".

ABP Southampton Director, Alastair Welch explained why the port had decided to buy Eling Wharf.

“Port users have increasingly relied on Eling Wharf to support their operations as the port has become busier."

There are 24 tenant businesses on the site and Mr Welch said ABP would support their work. An event where tenants can meet members of the ABP Southampton property team is planned.

“As we progressively enhance the site over the next five years, we will work with the council to explore longer term options for Eling Wharf,” he said.

“Our priority is to make a number of visual improvements to the site including replacing boundary fencing and security,” added Mr Welch.

The site has a long history of industrial use associated with its waterside location.

In medieval times the wharf was used for shipbuilding and there was a thriving timber trade. In more recent times a number of industries occupied the site including a chemical works and coal importers.

Part of that long history has led to contamination of the land by previous "irresponsible" industrial users, claims Cllr Harrison.

He said: " Sixty to seventy toxic chemical have found in the ground and they are now leeching into the watercourse," he said.

Cllr Harrison said he would be pressing ABP to deal with the chemical problem.