CONTROVERSIAL proposals to redevelop the Fawley power station site with 1,500 new homes and commercial properties have won the backing of New Forest councillors.
Following a lengthy four-and-a-half-hour online meeting of the district council’s planning committee, the application gained the support of 15 members, with one objection and two abstentions.
As previously reported in the A&T, the consortium leading the near-£1bn scheme, Fawley Waterside, applied for outline planning permission for the new homes – of which around 470 will be affordable properties – as well as an underground car park with more than 2,000 spaces.
A 98-metre-high landmark building will also be built, replacing the former power station’s iconic chimney, a 150-bedroom hotel and boat stack to store up to 600 vessels.
The plans also include public open space and almost 100,000 square metres of new commercial, civic and employment areas. An urban forest will be planted to create a buffer between the industrial and residential areas, and a canal would be formed to create a dock area and berthing facilities for leisure boats and yachts.
Discussing the scheme at a special meeting of the council’s planning committee on Monday, NFDC case officer Ian Rayner told members it was “one of the most significant planning applications this committee will ever be asked to determine”.
He called it a “high-quality design and distinctive new community”, adding: “This is a complex application with a significant and diverse range of impacts. Your officers have assessed the proposals against local and national planning polices and our conclusion is that the proposal complies with policy.”
The meeting heard how a transport assessment found the development would result in almost 14,000 additional daily vehicle movements.
Aldred Drummond of Fawley Waterside thanked members and officers for their “tremendously hard work and input” over last five years.
He said: “Our ambition is to build one of the most beautiful small towns in England and one with solid economic purpose, uniquely defined by the beauty of its buildings, public realm, countryside and coast.
“This is the most significant regeneration project in southern England, reusing the vast infrastructure of the power station, the dock with direct access to Southampton Water and the largest unsupported basement in Europe, which will be used to build a canal, enabling a maritime centre of excellence and underground car parking, so the streets almost feel car free.”
He called it a “tremendously exciting” proposal that will be a significant economic boost to the Waterside, which he said was “long dependant on the oil industry that must seek a new, more sustainable future”.
The development would create new jobs to help with the “increasing reliance” on workers commuting to Southampton and provide much-needed local affordable housing, which would be a mix of shared equity ownership and reduced rent accommodation, he said.
The meeting heard that Fawley Waterside was committed to improving the road network and was also actively pursuing a “water-based solution” to traffic concerns by holding discussions with the Hythe ferry operator and Red Funnel, based in Southampton.
Speaking against the plans, Marchwood Parish Council clerk Brendon Gibbs said: “The proposed alterations to a handful of existing junctions to deal with the expected significant increase in road traffic will do nothing to alleviate the pre-existing bottleneck at Marchwood. Here the A326 is already at capacity at rush-hour and traffic diverts on to village roads at peak congestion.
“We note this is an outline application, but we strongly object to the application purely and simply as it inadequately mitigates traffic issues.”
Cllr Malcolm Wade called the plan for the new small town “really good” but said an application was “only as good as the infrastructure that allows it to happen”.
Referring to figures which showed there would be an increase in traffic at the Hythe and Didben roundabout of around 30%, he added: “For the people of Hythe, Fawley and Marchwood, who queue up every day to go to work, this is not going to help their quality of life.
“Reluctantly I consider the mitigation insufficient to fix the infrastructure to allow this to take place. I’m sorry, because I think it is a really good plan, but we have to look at the lives of the people who live here already.”
Supporting the application, Cllr Barry Dunning said: “This area needs housing and this site is in the local plan. I think the developer has done a great job in making sure it is a quality development.
“We need the jobs the development will provide and as long as the infrastructure for transport is put in place then I have no problem in supporting the application.”
Cllr Joe Reilly agreed and said: “The site is ideal for development, it is a brownfield site but the only problem I’ve got with it is the access to and from it, and the traffic it is going to create over the coming years.”
Cllr Maureen Holding said it was “crucial” that the traffic improvements were agreed prior to the development going forward.
She said: “I am going to abstain until this is sorted. This will affect the whole of the Forest and it is crucial that we get it right. The impact on the people who live here will be immense and it cannot be undone.”
Cllr Ann Sevier disagreed and said: “We’re like a cleft stick over the A326. If we don’t have the development, we won’t get the upgrade. We have to move forward.”
The national park authority will meet tomorrow to make its decision on the plans, which also come under its jurisdiction.