A FACT-FINDING trip will be taken this week so decision-makers can get a better idea of the impact a massive new container terminal is likely to have on the shores of Southampton Water.

The delegates will be going to the huge container terminal at Felixstowe in Suffolk on Saturday.

Felixstowe's container port is similar in size to the development planned by Southampton Docks operator Associated British Ports at Dibden Bay, between Marchwood and Hythe.

County planning and transportation chairman Dudley Keep said: "The visits are part of the comprehensive and thorough assessments we have been undertaking to help us in our decision-making on one of the most significant development proposals to be considered in Hampshire for many years."

Councillors will also be visiting South-ampton Docks in February to look at the existing container terminal there.

They will be aiming to find out more about the operation there, the factors limiting its further development, its potential capabilities and the options for increasing its capacity.

County council leader Ken Thornber said: "It is vitally important that councillors see other container facilities, to gain an understanding of all the issues, in order to make an informed decision about the proposal for Dibden Bay."

The county will decide on its response to the Dibden Bay plans at a joint meeting of its planning and transportation and policy and resources committees on February 12.

It has already said that the need for the multi-million pound development must be demonstrated to outweigh its impact on the environment and other factors.

Considerable opposition to the scheme has already build up in the New Forest in general and in the parishes bordering the Bay in particular.

The issue will be decided upon by the government after a public inquiry. ABP says the port is needed and would safeguard the region's prosperity.