National Grid’s proposals to build the IFA2 facility were dealt ‘a huge blow’ last summer when Hampshire County Council rebuffed the energy operator’s prospective plans to build the 22m-high station at Chilling Farm in Warsash.
According to National Grid’s Morris Bray, who led the development phase for IFA2, the project had been left in a precarious state due to time constraints to get the project up and running by 2020.
However, the project’s future was then offered the former navy airfield Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent as a potential site after Fareham Borough Council’s leader Councillor Sean Woodward offered the manufacturer a chance to look at the site.
Mr Bray said: ‘After the huge blow of losing Chilling, there was a still a strong rationale for the project to keep going ahead.
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‘When something goes wrong, of course there are doubts and concerns but we knew that we just had to find a site to make the project viable.
‘We started talking to Fareham Borough Council early last summer and they offered us to take a look at Daedalus, which we realised was a much more suitable site for the plans than Chilling.’
Cllr Woodward said: ‘We were just finalising securing the ownership of Daedalus when they came to us, we asked them whether they would look at Daedalus again as an option.
‘There were of course lots of discussions about it and we made it clear they would have to jump through a lot of hoops for it to work.’
The discussions led to the local authority agreeing to provisionally lease 10 acres of land to the energy operator and earlier this summer, National Grid submitted two planning applications, one for outline permission for the building and one for permission for cables at Chilling to connect the station to the national grid.
Since National Grid identified Daedalus as their chosen location, nearby residents have voiced their concerns on the project, such as its visual impact, an audible humming from the station’s cooling equipment and its impact on aircraft using the site’s landing strip.
Mr Bray said that the humming would be ‘like background noise’, never reaching over 30 decibels and that National Grid are considering making the building smaller by a few metres.
Expert consultants Arcadis were appointed by National Grid to carry out a study into the potential adverse effects the power station would have on the airfield last week.
Despite Mr Bray’s reassurances, residents do not remain convinced about the plans, with more than 1,100 people commenting on the controversial proposals.
Bill Hutchison, chairman of the Hill Head residents association said: ‘This shows that Sean Woodward is just railroading this through. It is clear he wants the money the council would get from the rent.’
He added: ‘This will be a huge blot on the landscape. It doesn’t even provide lots of jobs! Daedalus is meant for aviation or defence companies not an energy manufacturer. It does not fit Daedalus.’