Campaigners say Havant Thicket’s ancient woodland and numerous species of wildlife could be at risk of ‘catastrophic’ impact if reservoir planning application goes forward

ECO campaigners say that a proposed reservoir development on Havant Thicket could be ‘devastating’ to woodland, wildlife, and the wellbeing of the local community if plans are accepted.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 2:27 pm
The Avenue, near Staunton Country Park. Picture: Emily Turner

Portsmouth Water has submitted a planning application to build a new reservoir on Havant Thicket to provide water to the south east, and another application has been submitted for a pipeline to fill the reservoir with water.

Havant Borough Council’s (HBC) planning committee will be discussing the applications on Thursday, June 3. It will later go on to East Hampshire District Council on Wednesday, June 9, which is responsible for part of the area that would be affected by the plans.

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Areas of Havant Thicket which could be impacted by the reservoir plans. Picture: Emily Turner

Campaigners from Havant Climate Alliance and the Stop the Chop! group are concerned about the impact the reservoir could have on the natural landscape, and are calling on councillors to think carefully about approving the plans.

They say that parts of The Avenue at Staunton Country Park could be lost, meaning that areas of irreplaceable ancient woodland would be flattened. There are also concerns about local wildlife, as Havant Thicket is home to many species including deer, bats, dormice, slow worms, badgers, and newts.

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Pat Brooks is submitting a deputation on behalf of Havant Friends of the Earth and Havant Climate Alliance.

From left: Stop the Chop! campaigners Beck Harvey, Shelley Saunders, Dave Childs, Dielle Hannah, and Helen Young. Picture: Emily Turner

She argues that the approval for the reservoir should not go ahead until there are clear commitments to deal with the extra emissions from construction and operating the reservoir and to minimise the threat to wildlife.

Pat said: ‘Havant and East Hants are committed to cutting greenhouse gases which are causing global heating yet the reservoir is going to create as many emissions as 5,700 typical homes over three years.

‘We need to compensate for these and HBC should have a clear policy before approving any plans.

‘We also need to be sure also that they are working to the latest directives on preserving wildlife.’

Campaigners say that these areas of ancient woodland would be lost if plans go ahead. Picture: Emily Turner

Havant Climate Alliance says that local residents are concerned about the size of the reservoir, as well as flooding risk and increased traffic, particularly throughout the construction stage.

Sue James, Havant Climate Alliance member, said: ‘We have written to all the HBC councillors asking them not to approve the reservoir without more guarantees that they will compensate for biodiversity loss and the emissions caused by construction.’

The Stop the Chop! campaign group has launched a petition calling for the prevention of the destruction of the woodland at Havant Thicket, aiming to ‘make Portsmouth Water responsible for protecting wildlife and conserving ancient woodland and ecosystems’.

Shelley Saunders, a member of the group, said ahead of the meeting on Thursday: ‘When making a decision this big, the councillors will be accountable for this for a long time.

‘To the recently elected councillors I’d like to say - this is the first really important decision that could have catastrophic impact on the area, and to think twice before putting your name to it.’

‘The whole application is a modern day tragedy of the commons - they’ve chosen the easier and cheapest option in this application.’

The group says that it understands the need for water conservation in such a time of climate change, but feels Portsmouth Water has other options open to them that would not involve flooding Havant Thicket.

Dielle Hannah of Stop the Chop! said: ‘There’s going to be a loss of the biodiversity that is going to protect us. It’s not just about saving the trees - it’s about saving us, it’s a fundamental shift in consciousness that needs to happen now. Deforestation needs to stop.

‘Not one single councillor should make a decision without watching David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet.

‘We have the resources and technology to be creative and innovate, to do what’s necessary - we just have to find the will.

‘We must remember that once it’s gone, it’s gone.’

Fellow group member Beck Harvey added: ‘It’s about saving trees, not chopping them down. Climate change is a big thing that everybody needs to be talking about.

‘We’ll do our best to try and stop it moving forward as we believe it is not the right thing to do.’

Stop the Chop! also argues that local people in Leigh Park, Havant, and Waterlooville will lose their nearby woodland and live under the shadow of an enormous reservoir - even though the water held will not be designated for their use.

Helen Young said: ‘None of this ancient woodland can ever be replaced. They could have a reservoir on either side of The Avenue.

‘This could be devastating for our community.

‘This place is unique - there’s so many endangered species, and it’s been a place for people to get away, helping many people through lockdown. It’s irreplaceable.

‘The sacrifice isn’t worth it - the councillors need to think really carefully and vote in their conscience.’

Dave Childs added: ‘This needs to be done for our children.’

Portsmouth Water was approached for comment.

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