THE VILLAGE at the heart of the row over plans for a huge new port development on Southamp-ton Water has overwhelmingly rejected the proposals.

Southampton Docks owner Associated British Ports has lodged applications to build a new container terminal at Dibden Bay, between Hythe and Marchwood.

If it goes ahead, Marchwood will face the prospect of up to 48 extra trains on its railway line, more than 4,000 vehicles on its bypass (including more than 1,500 lorries making two-way trips) and noise from construction work and port activity.

Last night 400 villagers packed into the village hall for the first of this week's four campaign meetings against the bay.

After hearing detailed outlines of what they could be facing, they were asked by Residents Against Dibden Bay chairman Paul Vickers: "Are you against the Dibden Bay proposals?"

The question prompted a forest of hands. No one raised an arm in favour.

Earlier, both Mr Vickers and New Forest East MP Doctor Julian Lewis had told the meeting that the plan could be beaten.

Describing the proposed docks area as a third the size of Heathrow Airport and disputing some of the claims made by ABP about the need for the project, Mr Vickers said: "It is like building the post-War Fawley Refinery all over again."

Doctor Lewis also referred to the considerable amount of container capacity available elsewhere in the UK, including the planned massive development on the Thames Estuary at Shell Haven. He also criticised Southampton City Council for "finding huge sums of public money for what can only be described as a propaganda campaign for Dibden Bay to be developed.

Marchwood parish council chairman Mike Saxby also slammed the scheme.

He said: "I can see no gain for the community and I believe Dibden Bay will be the biggest blight on the landscape you could imagine."

On the question of 48 trains, which could be up to 500 metres long, he suggested that one train could mean the closure of both of the village's level crossings at the same time. He added that, if the new port attracted 1,700 lorries per day, the trailers could add up to a total length of 6.8 miles and, with their tractor units, possible ten miles.

The meetings will continue at Hythe and Dibden Parish Hall tonight, Hardley School tomorrow and Testwood School at Totton on Thursday, all at 8pm.