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New Forest MP Julian Lewis says plans for Southern Water desalination plant should move from Fawley to Havant

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A NEW Forest MP has spoken out against plans for a £600m water desalination plant at Fawley and said a new supply scheme should be built elsewhere.

Southern Water has proposed building the facility at Ashlett Creek in a bid to safeguard against water shortages.

The plant would process 75-million litres of seawater into drinking water every day, with a 25km pipeline to transfer supplies to the company’s facility in Totton.

Southern Water's desalination plans show potential abstract and discharge zones (46383089)
Southern Water's desalination plans show potential abstract and discharge zones (46383089)

Julian Lewis made his comment in a joint statement with Alexis McEvoy, who is standing in the county council elections for the Conservatives in the South Waterside division.

They said they endorsed the concerns felt locally about the adverse impact of the plant, and argued a better choice was an alternative option identified by Southern Water to use the Havant Thicket reservoir for an emergency backup in extreme drought.

The Havant option would be “far more environmentally friendly than the desalination option, at a fraction of its cost”, they said, as they also raised concerns over the discharge of brine into the Solent.

They said Southern Water was understood to have signed a legal agreement in 2018 to build an emergency drought backup system by 2027. The desalination plant timetable is believed to have a completion date of no earlier than 2028 while the Havant scheme is expected to be ready by 2029.

They concluded: “Therefore, it is obviously more sensible to revisit the 2018 agreement now and change the completion date from 2027 to 2029. This will allow an immediate shift from planning a desalination plant towards planning to implement the Havant alternative option straight away.”

The other local election contenders for the South Waterside division have also raised concerns about Southern Water's plan.

Liberal Democrat Rebecca Clarke said she was concerned about the impact on marine life of the heavy brine outflow. She added: “If Southern Water is prepared to spend millions of pounds on this technology in Fawley with the huge demand for energy that it will require, what could they achieve if they spent the money on stopping leakage in the existing networks and addressed the wasteful attitude by businesses to water use?"

Labour’s Julie Hope said: "The proposed site at Fawley is very close to existing residential housing and it will cause noise and traffic disruption to local residents."

John Pemberton, of the Greens, told the A&T: “The need for the desalination plant in this location needs to be proven and balanced against the significant environmental damage it will inevitably cause.”

As reported in the A&T, a petition by objectors has gained over 1,300 signatures and New Forest District Council has criticised the scheme for its potential environmental impact.

Southern Water has not yet decided whether to seek consent via conventional applications or if it will seek a development consent order, which would be considered by an appointed examining authority and eventually determined by the government.

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