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Poole Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world and much of it is protected because of the valuable habit and wildlife. Much of the harbour is very shallow meaning that ferries have to negotiate specially dredged channels. You can read more from the BBC Coastal series site. 


According to the DfT’s ‘Port Freight Statistics’, Poole is not even on the map of major UK Ports . It is not growing – indeed it has seen a decline in freight tonnage over the last 15 years. 

National Trust Opposes port expansion

Given the environmental constraints and the unproven need for port expansion, it seems odd that Dorset Council should be lobbying for extra capacity on the A350, especially as there a number of good roads serving the area already.  The National Trust opposes increased capacity along the A350 because of the risk of port expansion and damage to its Brownsea Island nature reserve in Poole Harbour, an important destination for tourists. Previous dredging of the channel for larger ferries caused scouring of the eastern shore of the island, forcing the Trust to reinforce the shore with gabions.

A31 road investments

The main transport investment appears to have recently been on the A31 to access the port so it is not clear why the emphasis should in the future be on the A350 as a new route to the M4. See pages from the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership.


Tourism not more freight

The docks have limited capacity for handling freight and ferry services. The Poole Harbour Commissioners, while supporting ‘improvements’ to the A350 corridor, do not anticipate expansion of freight traffic; they favour development of holiday and tourism businesses based on the growing importance of the holiday/leisure economy round the harbour and its connections to Swanage and the Jurassic Coast. The proposed Jurassic Coast National Park has made a commitment to sustainable transport access.

Ecological damage

Expansion of the port could damage the vulnerable ecology of the shallow lagoon through dredging or spillage of fuel oil or chemicals. The Harbour is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for its diverse populations of migratory sea birds. Ospreys have been successfully reintroduced to Poole Harbour. 

Link: Photo of sailing dinghy in Poole Harbour with Arne peninsula in the background. Arne is an RSPB reserve. Walking routes open to the public include the sandy cliff and beach in the background. Photo: Rosemary Briggs.


Poole Harbour SSSI includes Seagrass protection, now regarded as very important to meeting carbon capture objectives. The sea around Studland is now protected by a Marine Conservation Zone and an SSSI designation.


'London South Logistics Cargo Hub'

BCP (Bouremouth, Christchurch and Poole) council spent £50,000 on a bid for government approval of its plan for a Freeport. The council had proposed a scheme for Bournemouth Airport and the Port of Poole to become the ‘London South Logistics and Cargo Hub’. A customs-exempt ‘freight corridor’ was planned between the port and airport, with a lower-tax ‘outer boundary’ including both airport and port. The council said this would be ‘more efficient and lower cost’ than airports and ports in the South East. The government rejected the proposal. Bournemouth Echo, 3 March 2021 BCP's 'London South' free port 'would be worth £1.7billion'


Arne nature reserve (RSPB).png

Above: The beautiful area around Poole Harbour and Arne would be threated by port expansion


Poole is on the main line from London Waterloo to Weymouth. There is no bus service linking the station to the ferry terminal serving the Channel Islands and France. The single-track freight line from the mainline at Wareham to the docks is still operational but is not used.


The line from Wareham to Swanage was restored by the Swanage Railway charity and connected to the main line at Wareham 20 years ago. It has operated as a heritage steam line but the company’s plans for regular passenger services from Wareham to Swanage have notbeen realised. A regular diesel service planned as a trial starting in the summer of 2022 was postponed till 2023.

Financially devastated by the pandemic the railway was only saved by a £200,000 public appeal. Supporters have not given up on the idea of becoming a commercial branch line but it is more likely to remain a weekend-only and/or summer-season service, with any further council support for public transport going to bus services from Poole and Wareham.


Recognition of the need to reduce the impact of cars on the Isle of Purbeck and the Jurassic Coast could improve the railway’s chances of public funding: it provides a very successful park-and-ride service to Swanage from Norden station, one mile north of Corfe Castle.

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