A MAJOR hurdle for the explosive demolition of Fawley power station is set to be cleared to help make way for a 1,500-home redevelopment worth nearly £1bn.
The plans include blowing up the 650ft landmark chimney on the site, which is next to European nature conservation spots by Southampton Water.
New Forest District Council must consider its potential environmental impact and mitigation measures before giving the green light.
A special meeting of the planning committee tomorrow (Friday) will be advised by officials to vote in favour of the operation, submitted by development consortium Fawley Waterside Ltd.
As reported in the A&T, separate outline applications have also been handed in to both NFDC and the national park authority for the development of homes and businesses. Decisions on those are expected later in the year, with detailed proposals to follow.
The structures facing demolition include the turbine hall, boiler house and saucer-shaped control centre. The chimney is included despite earlier hopes of transforming it into a sky-high restaurant.
The site is famous for starring as a location in blockbuster films Solo: A Star Wars Story and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
A 46-page planning report to councillors said consultants had been brought in to double-check NFDC’s analysis of the environmental assessment of demolition provided by Fawley Waterside Ltd.
Issues include dealing with dust, vibrations, noise, traffic and loading the barges which would take away the spoil.
The report said: “Taken as a whole, including all of the identified mitigation measures, the proposed project to demolish Fawley power station would not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the following European sites.”
Those include the Solent and Southampton Water Special Protection Area, set up to shelter rare birds, plus the Solent and Southampton Water Ramsar Site.
Natural England, the government’s environmental adviser, agreed with NFDC’s conclusions, the report said.
However, 38 people have written to oppose the scheme, raising concerns about the impact of demolition and the subsequent development, and urging the chimney and control centre be saved.
Among the objectors are two retired planning inspectors from the New Forest, Richard Tamplin and Colin Thompson, who have lobbied government ministers to push the plans through a more rigorous examination.
In a letter urging communities secretary James Brokenshire to call in the whole development to make a decision himself, they pointed to public comments by NFDC chief planning officer Claire Upton Brown describing the scheme as “exciting and innovative”.
They wrote: “Unless these two applications are called in for decisions by the minister as a separate and truly independent arbiter, there will be a very strong smell of prejudice and predetermination around the whole process of decision-making on and around the Fawley site.”
The Twentieth Century Society also objected to the loss of buildings holding an “outstanding level of architectural interest”.
If the committee signs off on the environmental issues, planning officers will also be able to approve the method of demolition and how the site will be left.
Clearance is scheduled to finish by September next year at the earliest with the final felling of the chimney.
NFDC’s planning committee will meet to make a decision at its Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst tomorrow at 2pm.