Permission for an 8.7 billion litre storage reservoir spanning 160 hectares between Leigh Park, Havant, and Rowlands Castle has been granted by Havant Borough Council and East Hampshire District Council.
The controversial plans were given the go-ahead despite pleas from campaigners and residents, who said that the reservoir development on Havant Thicket could be devastating to woodland, wildlife, and the community’s wellbeing.
However, the council says that the project, a collaboration between Portsmouth Water and Southern Water, will safeguard water resources for years to come for the South East, as well as protecting unique habitats and local chalk streams.
DiElle Hannah, one of the campaigners calling councillors to reject the plans, said: ‘It’s devastating to hear the plans have been passed, but I am grateful to the two councillors who voted against it and the two who abstained, which shows some progress.
‘Deforestation is a risk to human life. It needs to stop everywhere immediately for us to rescue life as we know it within the next five to 10 years.
‘There is a small ironic hope that the presence of these protected species on this site might protect us.
‘I have spoken to people local to the site over the last week or so and they either didn’t know about the plans at all, or were under the impression they would be able to swim in it which we have been explicitly told it is not safe to do.
‘This is the perfect opportunity to lead the way in regards to climate change as the government says they want to.’
Fellow campaigner Shelley Saunders, who lives in Havant, added: ‘The outcome is disappointing, alternative options for a smaller reservoir could have been explored for a solution resulting in less impact on the community, environment, biodiversity and ancient woodland.’
Concerns were heard at both planning meetings from The Woodland Trust, Havant Climate Alliance, Friends of the Earth and residents about the removal of ancient woodland.
Portsmouth Water says it has worked with environmental regulators to create an programme to support the environment at the site.
Caroline Setford, a Leigh Park resident, said: ‘I walk my dog here every day, and I just can't imagine the impact it's going to have on our local environment when it's covered in concrete and filled with icy cold water.
‘It's been sold as an idea to us that it will be a place for watersports and fun, but it's not going to be that at all. It's going to be another lake for birds, like we already have at Leigh Park Gardens.
‘And in the meantime all of those beautiful old trees along the avenue are going to be cut down, losing endangered species, which I'm so shocked is even being allowed to happen.
‘The second lake, which is a beautiful place to go, will be built over.
‘I'm so incredibly sad that our borough councils are letting this happen, when as residents we're not even going to get any of the water it's storing.
‘We're just getting the noise of the building works, the extra traffic, and a massive concrete pond.’
Bob Taylor, chief executive officer of Portsmouth Water, said: ‘As well as securing much-needed future water supplies, Havant Thicket Reservoir will help safeguard the River Itchen and River Test, two of Hampshire’s rare and world-famous chalk streams, by enabling less water to be taken from them. It will also create a new green leisure hub for people and wildlife.
‘As the nature of the existing site will change, we’ve worked with environmental regulators to create an extensive programme to support the environment on and around the site.
‘This includes the creation and improvement of around 200 hectares of woodland and pasture to support wildlife, and the creation of a 10-hectare wetland on the reservoir’s northern shore, which will be a major boost for threatened bird species.’