ITS giant storage tanks will dominate the skyline at Southampton’s docks and contain a foul smelling liquid stinking of rotten eggs.
The huge sulphur pastillation plant is earmarked for industrial land in West Bay Road, Freemantle, less than half a mile from a controversial biomass power station planned for the Western Docks in Millbrook.
The new plant will rises to 16 metres (50ft) at its highest point – less than a quarter of the height of the biomass station – and developers Oxbow Sulphur and Fertiliser insist a treating system will prevent putrid odours from wafting across scores of homes downwind from it.
But furious neighbours are kicking up a stink, claiming the company and city council chiefs failed to consult them on a development, which they say will pollute their air, devalue their homes and increase congestion in the area.
Leaders of the Freemantle Village Neighbourhood Watch only stumbled across a revised application for it last month and were horrified to learn the original application was conditionally approved by Southampton City Council more than 18 months ago in October 2011.
Member Ben Chambers, 37, who lives in Norman Road, said: “We should have been consulted. Sulphur is very unpleasant so we are very concerned about the potential noise and smell.
“People are already worried about the biomass plant and they are now concerned this will have an impact on them.”
The plant will create up to 12 permanent jobs plus another 50 roles during its yearlong construction, which is likely to begin in October. Liquid sulphur will arrive at the site in tanker lorries from the Fawley Refinery before being cooled and converted into drop-sized pellets to be shipped abroad for reuse as fertilisers and pharmaceuticals.
An Oxbow spokesman stressed measures are in place to prevent gases escaping and to minimise noise. He added: “Odours will be neutralised with a scrubbing system to levels determined acceptable by city planning and the port. Other support equipment would produce minimal sound that would dissipate before it leaves the facility.”
He said it will contribute to the economy and enhance the city’s reputation as a gateway port.
A Southampton City Council spokesperson stressed the authority was not required to carry out public consultation because the nearest houses are 200 metres away from the site and are separated by a railway line, the A33 and other industries at the docks.
She added: “There are no plans to extend the consultation but the three ward councillors recently met local residents and the details of the application were discussed with representatives of the council’s planning and environmental health divisions.”
But many nearby residents were unaware of the proposals when the Echo showed them the plans.
Michael Biggs, 32, who has lived in Saxon Road for 12 years, said: “It’s going to stink the place out! If it comes wafting across my garden I am going to be browned off.”
Trudie Robertson, 42, from Elgin Road said: “People don’t want to live near a big, ugly monstrosity – it’s going to affect house prices and add more lorries to the roads.”
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Stuart Galpin, 34, from Cliff Road, said: “A bit of transparency would have been better – it’s the not knowing which makes it worse. It’s as if it’s been brushed under the carpet.”
Freemantle ward councillor Jeremy Moul-ton, who is demanding the company sets up a meeting with residents to explain their plans further, said: “People are very nervous in the area following the application for the biomass station.
“People need reassurance this isn’t going to cause noise throughout the night and isn’t going to smell of rotten eggs.”
The Oxbow spokesman said: “Although in-person consultations have not been performed to date Oxbow is available to meet with the community as Oxbow believes in stakeholder engagement and transparency.”
Steve Galton from the No Southampton Biomass campaign group said: “It’s the last thing we need next to people’s homes.
“Why don’t they put the plant next to the refinery where they get the sulphur from? Why should the residents be lumbered with this industrial process.
“That land is for dock related development and I question whether it genuinely is or whether they are just putting it there because it is going to be shipped out.”
THE proposed sulphur pastillation plant will boost the city’s economic and environmental fortune.
That was the verdict of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jimmy Chestnutt yesterday.
Mr Chestnutt told the Daily Echo: “Sulphur is a product that we need to remove from our fuels and find a good use for and this is a good way of achieving this and creating jobs.
“If we can create jobs in difficult economic times we will do a lot to drive our economy upwards and the extra jobs in the construction phase will provide multipliers in the city.”
He said that recycling sulphur will help boost the Southampton’s drive towards a low carbon city and believes the company has sufficient measures in place to prevent odours.
He added: “This is good news for jobs and the local economy and good news for the environment.”
“I am as confident as I can be that the planning and building regulations will ensure that the local residents are perfectly safe.”
THE multimillion pound biomass power station is planned for land at Southampton’s Western Docks.
Developers Helius Energy are poised to make a full planning application for the £300m site this summer.
The 100 mega watt station would burn 800,000 tonnes of wood a year to convert into electricity.
It is expected to create 450 jobs in its construction phase and 40 permanent jobs afterwards.
But residents, led by the No Southampton Biomass group, have criticised the project, pointing out its 328ft chimney is twice the size of the Civic Centre and will tower over their homes.