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Southern Water dumps controversial £600m desalination plant – to the delight of New Forest East MP Julian Lewis

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CONTROVERSIAL plans for a £600m water plant at Fawley have been dumped by Southern Water.

It has confirmed it will not be proceeding with a proposed desalination facility at Ashlett Creek to safeguard against water shortages after a "wide-ranging and collaborative assessment".

The news was welcomed by New Forest East MP Julian Lewis – who had been vocally opposed to the plan.

Potential abstraction and discharge zones
Potential abstraction and discharge zones

"Southern Water’s decision to drop its plans for a desalination plant at Fawley show it has listened to the views of the local community and its environmental regulators," he said.

"The company has clearly taken a robust approach to developing its plans and, as a result, appears to be selecting the best outcome for customers and the environment."

Southern Water mooted the plans earlier this year, outlining that the plant would process 75-million litres of seawater into drinking water every day and see a 25km pipeline built to Testwood in Totton.

Potential impacts
Potential impacts

Chief executive Ian McAulay said it was part of a company-wide transformation over the next decade and its cost would be paid for by customers; but there was a backlash and subsequent petition signed by residents.

On Wednesday, the company said the plant proposal, part of its Water for Life – Hampshire programme set up to honour its commitment to protect the Rivers Test and Itchen and safeguard vital public water supplies, was shelved.

It had been among a series of potential options, including different configurations of water recycling and advanced treatment techniques to turn wastewater into drinking water.

Julian Lewis, New Forest East MP
Julian Lewis, New Forest East MP

But following an appraisal process with regulators, statutory consultees, stakeholders and customers, Southern Water said “desalination ranked lower than these options.”

Mark Wintringham, head of delivery for Water for Life – Hampshire, said: "Our proposals, which include investing to reduce leakage and improve water efficiency, will help keep Hampshire’s rivers and taps flowing for us and future generations and pave the way for similar approaches for the rest of the region and indeed the country."

Southern Water is now progressing further investigations and development of the remaining options ahead of its next submission to regulators in December 2021.

Then it will select its preferred solution, before carrying out further engagement and consultation and starting the planning process.

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