DEVELOPERS of a new smart city proposed on the site of the former Fawley power station have been warned they are “in for a fight” over the demolition of the landmark 650ft tower after several New Forest district councillors pledged they will battle to save it.
NFDC’s planning committee has given the green light for the whole site to be cleared after being told by planning officers that a report showed there would be no major environmental impact on areas of special protection for wild birds and other creatures.
The chimney had been advised for demolition as a “blot on the landscape” by the national park authority – which is also involved in the planning process for the Fawley Waterside Ltd development as some of the proposed building will be in its area.
Although NFDC gave the green light to the demolition, including the tower, several councillors said they will continue to battle for it to be saved during the planning application process for the wider development which is to include 1,500 homes, shops, restaurants, a hotel, cafes and bars.
Cllr Sue Bennison warned during the meeting: “Once it is gone it is gone. It is a landmark that has stood there for years and many people would like to see it saved.”
She complained that the tower was included in the demolition planning application saying: “We were always led to believe we would be able to discuss the tower separately, but now we are being told we are not allowed to do that.”
Her comments were backed by Cllr Allan Glass who said: “Living very, very close to the power station, I have heard an awful lot of comments from people very concerned about the loss of the chimney.
“A lot of people like it, the peregrines that live in it like it. I think the loss of bird life in the tower will have an adverse effect on the sites of special protection.
“It’s also used by many sailors as a navigation aid, and also by pilots. It will make a big difference if it is demolished. We need to be careful as once it’s gone it is gone.”
He also said he believed the demolition of the tower should be considered separately to the turbine hall and main control room.
Fawley Waterside has revealed it carried out a feasibility study into keeping the tower but that it would not be possible because of financial and safety reasons.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Bennison said: “The NPA and the developers are going to have a fight on their hands if they want the chimney gone. There is still a long way to go before full planning permission is given for the development.
“I think it would be a huge pity if the tower came down and so would a lot of residents in the area.
“It is a historic building that has stood for many years and has become a well-known landmark.
“Something really good could be made of it like a revolving restaurant at the top with a viewing platform – the cost of keeping it could be offset by creating very expensive apartments in the tower which would have amazing views across the Solent.”
She added: “The NPA have called it a ‘blot’ but what about all the other chimneys just a few miles away at Fawley oil refinery? Why does ours have to go when they are staying?
“I know the decision they took today is for demolishing everything at the power station including the chimney, but as far as many of us are concerned the developers are still in for a fight over this.”
Fawley Waterside Ltd has said it intends to include a smaller tower than the original one in the new development.
But Cllr Bennison said: “That is going to be much shorter than the one there now, so I think ‘why bother?’”
A comprehensive report into how the demolition project would have an adverse effect on designated European conservation sites close to the site has been undertaken by the developer.
It employed ecologists to carry out a habitat regulation assessment of the project which reported that the integrity of the European sites would not be adversely affected.
It was also stated that mitigation measures to be taken by Fawley Waterside Ltd during the demolition process would be adequate to make sure there would be as little impact as possible on the surrounding area regarding dust, noise and vibration.
Natural England had also been consulted, and it was also in agreement that the measures were adequate.
At the planning meeting Cllr Anne Sevier said councillors should accept the tower was going to come down but added: “This site will be watched like a hawk, or peregrine. If anything goes wrong we will know about it.”
Also speaking at the meeting was retired planning inspector Colin Thompson who told the committee the application should be being considered at ministerial level.
He said: “I am concerned with the principle of law.” But councillors were told by a planning officer that the application was “fully compliant” with legislation.
A spokesperson for Fawley Waterside said they had been advised by the local planning officers to “demolish the chimney as it has a detrimental impact on the landscape of the New Forest.”
They added: “With not viable alternative Fawley Waterside had no choice but to include the chimney in the demolition programme.
“It will be demolished in September 2020 and replaced by a landmark building that is far more sympathetic in scale and character. It will be approximately 100 metres high and be visible from the Solent’s eastern and western approaches.”
The company are taking every precaution they can to protect the birds which currently nest in the tower which includes pairs of peregrine falcons.
It said: “We are being extremely careful to protect its resident peregrine falcons and there is a strategy in place to ensure they are absent from the chimney prior to demolition