A SERIES of five public exhibitions on proposals for a controversial new £300m power plant at Southampton docks begins today.
Proposals for the 100-mega-watt energy station in the eastern docks have been met with stiff opposition from many residents and city politicians of all parties.
However developers Helius Energy hope to win support for revised plans by meeting the public face to face to explain the scheme in detail.
Helius went back to the drawing board after angry protests last year at the prospect of a “monstrous” power station being built just 125m away from the nearest homes in Millbrook.
The proposed site has now been moved back a further 125m nearer to the water next to the King George V Dry Dock, and many of the buildings have been reduced in height. Gaps have also been designed between the buildings to give views of port activity and shipping beyond. But a chimney stack will still rise up to 100m.
As previously revealed, architects have prepared three different themed designs – marine, wave, and hi-tech – for residents to have their say on.
The Helius project team also hope to allay fears over pollution, noise and lorry traffic. Most of the wood fuel will be shipped in through the docks.
Leaflets have been sent out to 25,000 households detailing the changes that Helius says shows it has listened to residents’ concerns and addressed them.
The exhibitions, to be held at community locations across Southampton and Marchwood, are part of a fresh 12-week consultation ahead of a planning application that is expected to be submitted later this year.
Last year’s consultation was criticised for being poorly advertised and one exhibition in Shirley had to be cut short when it clashed with a dance class. City politicians and the No Southampton Biomass campaign group remain opposed to the development.
New Labour city council leader Richard Williams called the new plans “green wash” and said the changes were “cosmetic”.
He said: “It is environmentally wrong, it’s socially wrong and it’s a purely opportunistic development.”
It is estimated that up to 450 jobs will be created during its 30 months of construction with about 40 more at the plant and 60 related jobs in Southampton once it is up and running.
Helius says it will bring about £10m every year to the city’s economy. The electricity generated, enough to power 200,000 homes, will be sold back into the grid.
Paul Brighton, Helius Energy’s planning director, said: “This project would make a significant contribution to the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change and will make Southampton a leader in sustainable energy.
“We believe this project has significant benefits not only for Southampton, in terms of jobs and investment, but also for the environment by helping meet the growing demand for energy with clean and sustainable power.”