PLANS to install a new lightning protection system at a Hanpshire army base have been given the go-ahead.

The number of columns beside a set of railway sidings at Marchwood Military Port is to be increased from five to 40.

New Forest District Council has approved a planning application submitted by Amey Defence Services.

A report to members said: "The proposal is for 35 new columns, each of which would be 20 metres high. The existing 30m columns would be retained, giving a total of 40 columns.

"The lightning protection system is required to meet Ministry of Defence safety standards."

A design and access statement that formed part of the application said a change in standards meant extra measures were needed to ensure the continued operation of port-related activities.

It added: "Currently there are three 30m high steel masts to the south of the site and two to the north.

"The proposal involves adding 35 20m masts which will serve as lightning protection for the facility.

"The site is around 400m from the entrance gates and, given its location within the facility, is minimally visible to the public eye."

Marchwood Military Port, also known as the Sea Mounting Centre, occupies a 300-acre site on the western shores of Southampton Water.

Since 2016 it has been run by a civilian operator, Solent Gateway, which has leased the facility from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) under a 35-year agreement.

In 2019 Solent Gateway was given permission to build a new top-security compound inside the base.

The company, which said the storage area was needed for “national security purposes”, was also given consent to install state-of-the-art security cameras around the edge of the new facility.

The precise purpose of the compound was not revealed in Solent Gateway’s planning application to the district council.

Built in 1943 the port played an important part in the D-Day landings in1944 and the Falklands Conflict in 1982.

Members of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment are based at the port, which is also used by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.