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Community's fury over plans for £600m water plant at Fawley

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A Southern Water diagram showing potential abstraction and discharge zones
A Southern Water diagram showing potential abstraction and discharge zones

A COMMUNITY has risen up against plans to build a £600m desalination plant near Fawley.

The facility at Ashlett Creek, which would process 75 million litres of seawater into drinking water every day, would also see a 25km pipeline built to Testwood in Totton.

Southern Water said the scheme would safeguard against water shortages caused by drought, with chief executive Ian McAulay adding it was part of a company-wide transformation over the next decade.

The cost of the plant would be paid for by customers, the company confirmed.

But some residents are concerned about the impact of the project, which consultation documents admitted “has the potential to cause some disruption to local communities” in construction and operation.

Robin Pearce, who lives close to the proposed site, told the A&T he had not been consulted by Southern Water and claimed many of his neighbours knew nothing of them either.

Mr Pearce said: “It is the most expensive, non-environmentally friendly way to produce water.

“Desalination is a very energy hungry process, with a high carbon footprint up to 15 times more than alternatives. It is proposed in a sensitive area of a national park, right in the middle of alternative natural green space for the Fawley Waterside residential development.”

He added other concerns over the scheme included noise, disruption while the infrastructure for the plant and pipelines are built, and the impact on marine life with large water intake pipes and brine discharge.

Southern Water image showing potential impacts on the area
Southern Water image showing potential impacts on the area

A petition against the proposal has also been launched online by Christine English, and has gathered more than 200 signatures.

It stated: “Southern Water are proposing to build a desalination plant to solve a problem they admit may only happen once in 200 years – a water shortage during a serious drought.

“We believe the [money] would be better spent on improving the collection and storage of our rainwater – 2020/21 was the wettest winter on record in the UK – and fixing leaks.”

A document from Southern Water’s consultation process, held online due to the pandemic, stated the pumping station would comprise large buildings, tanks and infrastructure to house the stages of treatment as well as store the treated drinking water.

The exact location and layout is yet to be defined.

It went on: “We recognise that our proposals have the potential to impact local communities and the surrounding environment in a number of ways.

“Impacts, both beneficial and adverse, may occur during construction and operation and will need to be assessed fully through an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.

“Operation of the desalination plant will secure a long-term drinking water supply for local communities in the event of a drought. It will also create job opportunities for local people, particularly during construction.

“However, construction and operation of our proposals has the potential to cause some disruption to local communities, which we will work hard to keep to a minimum.”

The public consultation period ends on 16th April.

Southern Water said it has not yet decided whether it will be seeking consent via conventional applications to the local planning authority or if it will seek a Development Consent Order (DCO), which involves making an application to the Planning Inspectorate.

A DCO would be considered by an appointed examining authority, with the application eventually being determined by the secretary of state.

The petition started by Christine is at: www.change.org/p/southern-water-no-to-fawley-desalination-plant

This article was amended on 18th March 2021 to update the new consultation deadline.

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