AFTER nearly six months’ delay, a major step has been taken to redevelop Fawley power station as plans were finally handed in for a futuristic “smart town” bristling with technology and home to at least 4,000 people.
As the A&T recently revealed, work has already started on demolishing the 300-acre site, including the iconic 650ft chimney which sits beside Southampton Water.
Today (Wednesday) outline planning applications were jointly lodged with New Forest District Council and the national park authority for the nearly £1bn scheme – the biggest locally for decades.
At a launch event, the founder of development consortium Fawley Waterside Ltd, Aldred Drummond, outlined the project, which dates back to 1953 when his historical family home of Cadland House was destroyed under compulsory purchase to make way for the power station.
He said it had been “imperative that I got control of the site” when it went up for sale in 2015.
“I needed to protect the area, and it gave me the opportunity to create something very beautiful here. It’s very dear to my heart personally, and I wanted to get the balance right between new and old,” he said.
“To another developer it would have been all about the money. But because of the link to my family there is a lot more invested here for me.
“Having gone through the war, my father [Maldwin] understood that things had to move on and that the generator had to be built.
“But from a personal perspective it was a tragedy. There was the house but also four beautiful cottages, a wonderful farm, and stable block that all went. It was a very difficult time.
“I think that’s why, after that, my father spent his whole time trying to do what he could to protect the New Forest. He died two years ago but was aware of what we were planning here and was very pleased.”
Mr Drummond added: “Beauty is a big part of the scheme – beauty for some architects is becoming a dirty word as so many are obsessed by function over form. That’s not what we want. I think you can do both.”
He envisages a canal and waterside leisure activities, with apartments in the Southern Quayside starting at £175,000 and rising to at least £1m for a penthouse boasting staggering views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight.
Mr Drummond admitted: “Views will have a big price tag.”
There will be around 1,300 apartments with large balconies and colonnades lining the waterfront where some of the architecture has been inspired by buildings in Lymington and Portsmouth.
The blocks will be eight to 10 stories high, but narrower at the top to lessen their impact on the landscape. The iconic Fawley tower is to be toppled and replaced by a 330ft building containing flats, restaurants, cafes and offices.
There will also be shops, bars and restaurants around the town, which local people will be welcome to enjoy, stressed Mr Drummond.
“This will not be a gated community,” he said. “It’s very much open to anyone to come into. We will be upgrading footpaths and cycle ways the public already use.
“At the moment, most people from this area commute to Southampton to work, or to go out. Once Fawley Waterside is built they will no longer have to do that.”
The planning applications are for 1,500 homes – 1,380 within New Forest District Council’s jurisdiction and 120 on an area within the national park. Of those on NFDC land, 35% must be affordable, going up to 50% for the NPA’s site.
The development includes an art deco hotel, marina, a glass tower meant to mirror some of the original industrial design of the power generator, and an automatic dry stacker for motor boats, claimed to be the first of its kind in the UK.
Phil Brown, development director for Fawley Waterside, explained: “You will be able to motor up, use a key card system to park your boat, and it will then be stacked in a space until you want to leave. It is going to be a huge attraction for the marine community.”
The canal at the heart of the town is, said Mr Drummond, “a great legacy” from the power generator. It will be 300 metres long, 35 metres wide, and be able to accommodate two vessels of up to 56 metres each.
The nearby hotel will borrow elements from Southampton City Hall and the whole area, Mr Drummond predicted, will evolve to become a “busy little port with a great atmosphere”.
The other legacy the power station has gifted developers is the ability to put much of the car parking underground. There is space for at least 2,000 vehicles, which frees up more land for development.
Mr Drummond joked: “In a few years’ time cars will be able to park themselves.” But it is technology like that which is intended to form an integral part of the new town.
To attract the kind of high-tech industries they want, the developers know they will have to offer both employers and employees the latest smart technology.
Mr Brown said: “We undertook research which showed one of the top criteria for both businesses and people looking to move is getting the highest broadband speed possible.
“They want to move in, hook up and start work. There is no more waiting around for two-weeks while you get your broadband set up.
“People want it instantly and they want it fast. Those looking to live here want to have high speed at home, be able to get the latest streaming TV, music, all that. Fawley Waterside will be very much a smart city with all that ready.
“The other attractive thing for businesses is that they will be part of a town, part of a community. They don’t want to be planted at the edge of town in an industrial park anymore.”
Mr Brown would not give too much away, but revealed the developers are already in talks with some of the major players in the field of broadband and mobile phones – including Cisco, IBM, Siemens and Vodafone.
Mr Drummond continued: “I think the way technology is evolving so fast, it is going to positively change life, enabling people to live and work in places they couldn’t have contemplated before.”
The superfast broadband will be in all public places and will also benefit energy, health, travel, education and community services.
As well as high-tech companies, Fawley Waterside is hoping to attract marine industry with the dock providing access from the Solent.
The Northern Quarter will be focused on those kinds of business, including an advanced complex with a repair and refit yard, offices and workshops.
The first homes in the Southern Quayside are scheduled to be ready in 2023. Fawley Waterside promised measures to prevent the settlement falling victim to an influx of second home buyers, or buy-to-let landlords.
Questioned about the extra stress the development will put on the A326 – the only main road into and out of Fawley – Mr Drummond said they have already agreed to improve junctions, especially at roundabouts which will have two-lane entries and exits.
There will be three new bus stops, and there are hopes that the Waterside railway branch line from Southampton can be reopened.
The developers also have ambitions for the introduction of a new ferry service, which could carry people to Southampton in around 15 minutes.
Mr Drummond said: “Research shows that dualing the A326 is not needed at the moment. We are hoping that Fawley Waterside will mean a reduction in people commuting to Southampton to work, which will help the traffic situation.”
An important element of developing the site has been the protection of the natural habitats of the many species of wildlife which call the area their home.
One area, known as Tom Tiddlers, has saline lagoons where many birds nest. Mr Drummond said experts say birds in the Solent like higher ground roosts, so small islands will be built in the lagoons to meet that need.
It is hoped that in the national park area of the development, there will be a return to open grazing by livestock. There is also a 1,000-acre area of heathland that has not been grazed since the 1960s which will eventually be turned over to the animals.
Mr Drummond said: “That will all add to the beauty of the place, which to me is important. It doesn’t matter if you are a labourer, a teacher, a shop assistant – everyone wants to live and work in a beautiful place. That will be the attraction here.”
The planning application will now be studied by the NPA and NFDC, which are working together on the Fawley Waterside development.
Claire Upton Brown, NFDC chief planning officer, said: “This is an exciting and innovative scheme that looks to provide a significant number of homes and jobs on a brownfield site. A scheme of this scale is complex and delivery will be challenging – the application is just the start.
“The two local planning authorities will be working with the applicant, the community and key stakeholders to fully consider the details of the scheme and understand its impact on both the natural and built environment.”