CAMPAIGNERS are fighting plans to build a £600m water desalination plant in the edge of Southampton Water.

Southern Water is drawing up proposals to build the plant on land south of its wastewater treatment works at Ashlett Creek, near Fawley.

The scheme also involves the construction of a 25km pipeline from Ashlett to Testwood in Totton.

Southern Water says the scheme aims to keep customers' taps running in the event of a severe drought. But locals say they are concerned about the potential impact of the project.

An online petition launched by Christine English has already gathered more than 200 signatures.

It says the money would be better spent on improving the collection and storage of rainwater.

Southern Water has launched an online public consultation.

One of the documents says: "We recognise that our proposals have the potential to impact local communities and the surrounding environment in a number of ways.

“Impacts, both beneficial and adverse, may occur during construction and operation and will need to be assessed fully through an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.

“Operation of the desalination plant will secure a long-term drinking water supply for local communities in the event of a drought.

"It will also create job opportunities for local people, particularly during construction.

“However, construction and operation of our proposals has the potential to cause some disruption to local communities, which we will work hard to keep to a minimum.”

Southern Water could decide to seek consent for the scheme by submitting a planning application.

Alternatively it could pursue a Development Consent Order (DCO), which involves making an application to the Planning Inspectorate.

A Southern Water spokesman told the Daily Echo: “Our proposed desalination plant at Fawley was selected as part of our Water Resources Management Plan 2019.

“It would be capable of providing up to 75 million litres of drinking water a day.

“The total size and cost of the proposed plant is still being finalised as there are many elements which have yet to be decided, but we estimate it would cost around £600m to build.

“We will work hard to minimise any disruption during construction with a range of techniques as outlined in our consultation brochure.

"When the site is up and running we do not expect there to be any significant impact on the surrounding area in terms of noise or traffic.

“We expect a team of up to five people being required to operate the site and approximately one lorry per day to operate the process.

“We are working with our environmental regulators to understand any environmental impact of the proposals and ways we can mitigate them.”