A HAMPSHIRE MP has joined the battle against plans to build a £600m water desalination plant on the edge of the New Forest.

Julian Lewis, who represents New Forest East, has written to Southern Water following the publication of its proposal to redevelop land near Ashlett Creek, Fawley.

The plant, part of the company's Water for Life project, aims to keep the taps running in the event of a severe drought.

But Dr Lewis is urging Southern Water to use a proposed new reservoir at Havant as an emergency back-up instead.

In a joint submission, he and South Waterside county councillor Alexis McEvoy claim the Havant option would deliver a more eco-friendly solution than the Fawley scheme - and at a fraction of the cost.

Mark Wintringham is Southern Water’s head of delivery for Water for Life – Hampshire.

He said: "We are teaming up with Portsmouth Water to build a new reservoir at Havant Thicket to be used as a strategic water resource for the south east.

“Our current agreement with Portsmouth Water is to take 21 million litres a day from their sources during a drought.

“However, we are also exploring whether we could take more water from the reservoir and potentially top it up with recycled water.

“This recently-proposed plan was not identified at our Water Resources Management Plan 2019 and has only recently emerged as a potential back-up to desalination.

“Work is ongoing to better understand the feasibility and consentability of this enhancement, which would be subject to further planning consultation.

“Water for Life – Hampshire is our response to the twin pressures of climate change and a growing population and will help keep rivers and taps flowing, especially during a drought.

“The result will be a resilient supply of water for customers and the environment, whatever the weather.”

As reported in the Daily Echo, the Fawley proposal has been criticised in a report signed off by the new leader of New Forest District Council, Cllr Edward Heron.

The report says: "Desalination at Fawley is a high carbon footprint, high environmental impact and high risk water supply option that NFDC should not support.

“The proposed desalination plant and its pipeline would have very significant environmental implications for internationally-designated habitats in the Solent, and on the New Forest National Park landscape.”

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is also opposing the scheme, claiming it poses "significant risks" to species and habitats in protected areas.

In a letter to Southern Water it says: "The Solent is already stressed and the unfavourable condition of its protected habitats such as sea grass has been attributed, in great part, to the impacts of poor water quality.

"The operation of a desalination facility abstracting and discharging into the Solent will do nothing to improve water quality and is highly likely to reduce it further."