ONE OF the world's oldest conservation groups is fighting plans to replace Fawley power station with more than 1,000 new homes.

Friends of the New Forest (FONF) - formerly the New Forest Association - says the proposed development is comparable to a settlement the size of Lyndhurst being built in an environmentally-sensitive area.

Artist's impressions released by the consortium show the huge complex making way for a Venice-style development with ornate buildings lining both sides of a canal.

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Fawley Waterside says the £800m scheme will create "one of the most beautiful small towns in England".

But FONF - formed more than 150 years ago - claims the development will generate extra traffic as well as creating light pollution and other problems. It also says land near the site, including internationally important nature conservation sites, will be adversely affected.

The power station is at the end of the A326 - described by FONF as a nine-mile cul-de-sac.

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Chairman John Ward said: "Local residents can expect to suffer even worse traffic chaos and additional gridlock than experienced at present along an already busy and dangerous A326 /B3053 if this scheme goes ahead."

The group claims extra traffic will endanger free-roaming animals in the Forest as well as eroding the tranquillity of the national park.

Mr Ward raised concerns that most of the new homes would be sold to well-off executives, retirees relocating and downsizing, and wealthy "second-homers" from London and neighbouring counties.

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Fawley Waterside has submitted plans for a residential and commercial development.

In a statement a spokesman said the scheme would provide much-needed homes and jobs while respecting and enhancing the ecological value of the surrounding area.

He added: "Over a five-year period the company has worked closely with various professional bodies including Natural England, the RSPB and the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to create a nature conservation plan that results in a net environmental gain.

"The proposals have the potential to transform this corner of the New Forest for the better by creating new and improved habitats and networks of open space."

The spokesman said the proposed development would feature "homes for all", including first-time buyers.

He added that the company was working with Hampshire County Council to devise a scheme which would improve the A326 by increasing capacity and reducing congestion.

It also aimed to achieve the re-opening of the Fawley railway and the creation of a passenger ferry service between Fawley and Southampton.