Mixed reaction to plans for £500m power centre in Lee-on-the-Solent

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AMBITIOUS plans to build an interconnector convertor station costing £500m at a former navy airfield have been announced – and have been met with mixed views from residents.

The project, which has been called IFA2 and is earmarked for 10 acres of land at Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent, would be the second electricity link between England and France, converting power for more than one million homes, whilst the deal could pump millions of pounds into the local economy.

The 20-metre high station would allow the two countries to exchange power and meet rising energy demands.

This follows an appeal released from the National Grid last week for more power following multiple plant break downs – prompting fears of black-outs – as the UK’s power supply and demand runs at tight margins.

Morris Bray, IFA2 project director for National Grid, which is behind the project, said: ‘Interconnectors have an increasingly important role to play in providing alternative sources of electricity for this country and keeping supplies safe, secure and affordable.

‘We have worked extensively with local authorities and stakeholders to find an appropriate site for IFA2 and are now delighted to present information on the proposals publicly.’

Fareham Borough Council, which owns the land, said it stands to make an as-yet-decided multi-million sum from the deal with the National Grid.

Council leader Sean Woodward said: ‘Most importantly it would enable England to access safe and stable energy.

‘It could bring down energy prices by a couple of per cent.

‘It would be able to bring in or export up to a gigawatt of power between Fareham and Caen, in Normandy, and would be online by 2020, and would mean the lights can stay on in Britain.’

If granted planning permission, the station would convert energy brought over from Europe on high voltage undersea cables, running for more than 100 miles. It would also allow energy produced here to be converted and exported to Europe.

As the interconnector also requires a connection to the national electricity grid, it would be connected via five miles of undersea cables, plus a short distance underground, to the existing substation in Chilling, Warsash.

National Grid had wanted to originally place the interconnector at Chilling, but was rejected as the area is a sensitive area of nature conservation and council officers came up with the alternative location at Daedalus – a brownfield site.

Cllr Woodward welcomed the investment that it would bring to the area, and the boost it would give to the Solent Enterprise Zone, an area designated by the government to support businesses at Daedalus, as money generated from the interconnector would be ploughed into improving that site.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘It means there would be more potential for investment at Daedalus, there will be income from business rates, as well as from a potentially lease or land sale.

‘It will help us to pursue our vision for Daedalus and make it a fantastic place to do business for aviation, aerospace and marine.’

The council has plans to expand the runway and the money from the deal could fund a viewing gallery and cafe, runway lighting and a navigation tower.

While jobs would be created during the construction of the building, very few people would be employed at the site afterwards.

The building which will house the interconnector will be around 20m tall and be surrounded by mostly open fields in the north east of the site, with the nearest residential properties being those along Newgate Lane, near Peel Common Roundabout.

Cllr Woodward said the building would not impact on the runway expansion plans.

Nearby residents had mixed feelings about the plan.

Toby Liddicoat, 38, from Newgate Lane, said: ‘I’m not so sure whether this is going to be a good thing.

‘I wouldn’t have minded if it had been turned to housing, for example – although there would obviously be problems with traffic.’

Michael Budgen, 73, also from Newgate Lane, said: ‘I’m all for getting some new regeneration because I’ve got an electric car. Housing would be absolute chaos because it’s bad enough already with the traffic.’

Ian Taylor, from Lee-on-the-Solent, said: ‘It’s going to stand out like a sore thumb, I mean can we expect pylons coming from the site, too?

‘I thought it was going to be used for local businesses.’

Cllr Woodward reassured residents the council would be working to ensure that all safety requirements were met, and that there would be no pylons on the site.

He added: ‘It is a very significant national infrastructure project. It is critically important because previous governments have not made the investment they should’ve done in our power generating infrastructure.

‘We need stability of prices and supply, therefore we need to bring power into the country when we need it and to export it when we don’t.

‘It means the UK’s power supply will be far more stable than it otherwise would be.’