THE company behind nearly £1bn plans for 1,500 homes at the former Fawley power station has been accused of pushing development into the New Forest National Park to maximise profits.
Fawley Waterside Ltd’s scheme came under fierce scrutiny during the two-week public examination of the NPA’s Local Plan, a set of key policies guiding construction of 800 homes in the area by 2036.
It includes allocating land for 120 dwellings – half of them affordable – in the national park in a southern part of the overall development of the disused power station, which mostly comes under New Forest District Council’s jurisdiction.
At Lymington Town Hall on Tuesday, two planning inspectors heard competing arguments over the draft Local Plan.
Fawley Waterside Ltd claimed that without the extra space it would have to build 3,930 homes to hit its target profit margin of 20%.
That led to accusations by conservation group Friends of the New Forest (formerly the New Forest Association) that the consortium, led by local landowner Aldred Drummond, was using part of the national park to claw back its investment, including £25m for the power station land.
Speaking for the Friends, planning barrister Scott Stemp told planning inspector Caroline Mulloy: “You’re being put in a remarkable scenario.
“You’re being asked, should this development be allowed to take land out of the national park in order to protect a developer’s profits?
“The thing that is taking the hit is the national park.”
Without the power station, he said, there would be no question of building on the location. It had partly been selected by the government requiring local authorities to cooperate to meet housing need, he said, for which the NPA was technically short by 580 homes.
Mr Stemp also highlighted the Friends’ fears that the development would not be as self-contained as promised, spreading traffic into the New Forest and endangering animals.
Those concerns were rejected by John Adams who, speaking for Fawley Waterside Ltd, described the 120 national park homes as featuring traditional New Forest architecture, limited to 2.5 storeys, and shielded by planting.
He also rejected doubts about the site’s vulnerability to flooding, which put it 151st on a danger list containing 154 sites. The entire area would be raised up to 1.5 metres, he said, to place it in the least threatened Flood Zone 1 category with a one-in-1,000-year risk.
Mr Adams assured: “We are satisfied that the proposal, as being tested, is deliverable. We have done a huge amount of work to look at the restraints that need to be overcome. We are satisfied there is no show-stopper.”
As well as 1,500 homes, business and jobs, the development includes large areas of public open space. Promises have been made to upgrade junctions on the A326, and there are hopes for ferry services and even the reopening of the Waterside railway line to passengers.
Industrial buildings will be removed and a salt water lagoon will be created to the south in Tom Tiddler’s Ground, former marshland raised when the power station was built.
A masterplan is expected to be submitted either this year or in early 2019.
The homes were defended by NPA planning policy manager David Illsley who said: “The allocation in the national park helps to deliver a wider package of benefits – you can’t pull them apart.”
No objections had been raised by the Environment Agency or Hampshire County Council, he pointed out, although he conceded HCC would not confirm yet if a £6m primary school included in the overall site plan would actually be required.
Executive director for strategy and planning Steve Avery summed up: “It is about how you deal with a redundant power station which sits in the middle of a national park.”
The draft Local Plan also sets out approximate allocations for 50 homes at the former Lyndhurst Park Hotel; 40 south of Church Lane in Sway; 60 east of Whartons Lane in Ashurst; and 30 in Calshot, south of the B3054 which is currently earmarked for a cemetery.
Proposed restrictions include half of all new homes being affordable and limiting new properties to 100 square metres’ floor space to help meet the need for smaller homes.
The New Forest’s 219 square miles are home to 2,500 businesses and 35,000 residents. Like other planning authorities, the NPA is under pressure to meet government housing targets.
The neighbouring NFDC’s own draft Local Plan is proposing 10,500 homes by 2036 and will undergo its own public examination next year.
The NPA’s hearing was due to have finished yesterday (Thursday), with the planning inspectors due to report back later on required policy changes.