HOMES shook, windows rattled and a huge dust cloud started drifting over Southampton Water.

Demolition experts have begun blowing up Fawley power station ahead of a proposed £1bn redevelopment scheme which aims to create "one of the most beautiful small towns in England".

A controlled explosion destroyed part of vast turbine hall, marking the beginning of the end for a building which has dominated the skyline for almost half a century.

The blast shattered the hall's roof, sending a large amount of material tumbling into the void below.

Other parts of the power station - including its iconic 650ft chimney - are due to be blown up over the next two years.

The site is owned by Fawley Waterside, which said people in the area had been notified of the time and date of the first blast.

But a woman living at nearby Ashlett Creek said she had not received any warning.

She told the Daily Echo: "The first I knew about the explosion was a horrendous noise, the house shaking and the windows rattling. A massive dust cloud went up Southampton Water and I couldn't see the other shore."

The 10am blast was also heard and felt in other communities including Fawley, Woolston and Netley.

After several minutes the cloud dispersed, revealing part of the power station's interior for the first time since it was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Stringent safety precautions were in force prior to the explosion.

The 300-acre site was covered by an exclusion zone and a neighbouring footpath was closed to the public. Pilots flying in the Fawley area were warned not to go below 1,000ft.

Fawley Waterside took to social media and described the blast as a "monumental moment".

As reported in the Daily Echo the consortium wants to transform the site by building about 1,500 homes, plus a raft of community facilities.

Artist's impressions show a Venice-style development with ornate buildings lining both sides of a broad canal.

Two outline planning applications have been submitted to New Forest District Council and the New Forest National Park Authority, which are due to make a decision early next year.

Aldred Drummond, chief executive of Fawley Waterside, said the waterfront complex was once the world's most efficient oil-fired power station.

He added: "It was a notably impressive building which served its purpose.

"Now a gentler transition is planned by replacing the monumental power station with one of the most beautiful small towns in England.

"I want this to be a treasured place with a dramatically positive impact on the Waterside through the provision of homes and employment opportunities."

The main demolition contractor, Brown and Mason, has spent more than two years preparing for the blasts.

The huge complex is said to be four times the size of the former Battersea power station, which now houses the Tate Modern gallery.

It took six years to build and went online in 1972, providing power - and 700 jobs - for more than 40 years before closing in 2013.

Some of the buildings on the site have been used as a filming location for several movies and TV series.

They include the 2015 film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, starring Tom Cruise, and the Star Wars movie Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Scenes for small screen productions such as Spies, Endeavour and Red Dwarf have also been shot at Fawley.