It has been one of the most controversial planning rows to hit Southampton for years.

Computer images of what a giant energy plant in Southampton Docks would look like looming over residents’ homes sparked outrage, But now householders battling the controversial biomass plant could be on the verge of victory, the Daily Echo understands.

Speculation is mounting that the £300m scheme could be moved to a different site.

A huge campaign has been mounted against plans to put the plant within yards of homes in Freemantle and Regents Park.

Now the developers behind the scheme, Helius Energy, have revealed that a planning application for the project will be delayed until next year.

And, when asked, Southampton City Council leader Richard Williams also refused to be drawn on whether the hold-up is because a new location has been agreed.

As reported in the Daily Echo, Cllr Williams asked last month for Helius to meet him and discuss where the huge biomass plant could be placed at an alternative site.

He said that he had been “looking at the issue” for quite some time and it was “not an idle promise” that he could suggest other locations. But he was tight-lipped yesterday on what progress he had made with Helius, despite admitting he had met with representatives from the company twice since he became council leader.

He said: “I have no update.

“Yes we have had discussions but there is nothing we can tell you at the moment – no comment at this stage.

“I welcome the fact that it’s been delayed; I think that’s very prudent but at the moment I can’t say any more than that.”

Helius says the planning application has been delayed so that the responses to a recent consultation could be reviewed.

The survey had caused controversy because the company claimed that 52 per cent of respondents had chosen a “Marine” design for the 100-megawatt wood-fired plant, but campaigners criticised the statistic because they said many residents had written “none of the above” as their response and these had not been included in the results.

In a statement Helius planning director Paul Brighton said: “We will now be submitting in the first quarter of 2013.

“We’re taking longer to consider the public consultation responses.

“It’s taking time to put all the documents together under the procedures that we need to go through.”

Campaigners welcomed speculation that it could be moved to another location.

But No to Southampton Biomass spokesman Steven Galton said: “The site at Southampton docks is not suitable for large scale development because of how close it is to residents’ homes.

“But for large-scale biomass I don’t think anywhere’s suitable and if it moved I would continue to fight against it.”

Resident Bob Skinner, 55, who lives in Freemantle – next to the current proposed site – said he believed the docks location was too close to homes.

He said: “My main objection is that it will be so near to people’s houses – it’s quite an imposing building and it will be within 200-300 feet from people’s front doors.

“There’s been a few fires in biomass plants over the last few months and some people will be about 250 yards from the site – it’s very close.”