Residents said they were horrified by the letters – and they were left in a state of worry for more than a week before a follow-up letter tried to put their minds at rest.
The first letter refers to ‘Land Referencing’, which can form an early stage of a compulsory purchase order, which then allows bodies to obtain land or property without the consent of the owner.
A compulsory purchase order would see the property taken and the owner paid compensation at the market value.
New Road resident Steve Restall said he was ‘horrified’ to receive the letter, fearing he’d lose his home of 24 years.
He said: ‘We just got the place how we wanted. I’m 61, this house is basically our pension. Everything we’ve made we’ve ploughed back into the property.
‘That letter arrives on your doorstep...and the way it’s worded, it’s the first step of a compulsory purchase.
‘It was so out of the blue – we didn’t expect it.’
But residents received a second letter 10 days later, with the follow-up stating that the original had ‘incorrectly’ stated that the company required residents’ land. The follow-up letter apologised for ‘any upset and confusion’ caused.
Eunice Davage, a 70-year-old resident of New Road for 30 years, said she was ‘very upset’ to receive the first letter – and isn’t convinced the second letter will have put residents’ minds to rest.
She said: ‘Considering they hand-delivered (the follow-up letter), they must have been pretty worried.
‘But I still feel it doesn’t really clear anything up. They still haven’t given us a lot of information about where the pipeline is and what it’s doing.’
A Facebook group called SW 'Land Referencing' of Hampshire Homes has been started to draw attention to the confusion and has attracted more than 60 members, with many residents fearing that the company may change its plans in the future.
Civil servant Steve said: ‘We don’t particularly trust Southern Water. We’re just worried sick.’
Last year’s annual report from Ofwat, which regulates the water sector in England and Wales, panned Southern Water for 'lagging behind' among the worst water companies in the country.
A spokesman from Southern Water said a ‘small number’ of Havant residents received the initial letter and the ‘clarification letter’ more than a week later.
He said: ‘The second letter explains that while one of the possible routes for a new pipeline may fall near these residents’ properties, the pipeline route will not be on any of these households land or property.
‘We want to assure all our customers that we are committed to ensuring that any new pipeline has the least impact on our residential customers and the local environment as possible.
‘These letters were the beginning of our conversation with the local community, and in the new year we will continue to engage and consult the local community, planning authorities, environmental groups and other stakeholders to help us shape the plans as they develop over the coming months.’
The follow-up letter requests residents assist the company with initial surveys, as proposed pipelines routes fall near – but not under – properties.
But Steve said residents saw ‘no reason’ to help the company after the headache caused by the letters.
He said: ‘I have no desire to help them with anything.’
A new pipeline is being proposed to expand the company’s water treatment services across Hampshire.