Aquind: Judicial review launched in bid to build interconnector in Portsmouth

TENACIOUS campaigners and politicians say they ‘absolutely will not give up’ in their fight against a controversial £1.2bn scheme to lay electrical cables through Portsmouth after Aquind filed for a judicial review.

By Fiona Callingham
Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 2:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 4:17 pm

As reported, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng ruled against the Aquind interconnector project in January this year – much to the delight of residents and politicians who had lobbied against it.

If approved the plan was to run cables from France, through the English Channel to come ashore at Eastney where they would then run along Eastern Road and through Farlington on its way to Lovedean.

Today (March 8) the company has sparked anger by submitting a judicial review application to the High Court.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Stop Aquind protestors with Cllr Steve Pitt, Council leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Cllr Lee Hunt celebrate near Lock Lake, Portsmouth in January after it was turned down Picture: Habibur Rahman

In a statement Aquind said: ‘Aquind can confirm that an application has been made for a permission to bring a judicial review of the decision of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of 20 January 2022 not to grant the development consent order for Aquind interconnector. The matter is now with the courts.’

But city resident Viola Langley, the founder of the opposing Let’s Stop Aquind group, said they would fight Aquind ‘all the way.’

She told The News: ‘We are outraged that the owners of Aquind have dared to launch a judicial review to try to reverse the decision by Kwasi Kwarteng. This project would do untold damage to the fabric of our city and its residents. We will endeavour to counter this effort by Aquind to cause so much harm and disruption for so little gain.

‘There must be a better way especially at this critical time.

Picture: Sam Stephenson

‘Although we were cautious about our win we were just getting ready to archive our Facebook group as last week marked the six weeks since the decision was made.

‘That will not happen now and we will get ready to fight again if needed – nothing has changed on our end.

‘We’re still waiting to learn more details about it but we’ve already been in contact with our MPs Penny Mordaunt and Stephen Morgan, as well as the city council’s planning team to see where we go from here.’

Since its inception the plan had been opposed by every political party in Portsmouth – the Lib Dem council, Conservative Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and Labour’s Stephen Morgan, who represents Portsmouth South.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he was ‘expecting’ this to happen.

‘I think the government wrote its refusal in a weak way so a final decision would go to the courts,’ he said.

‘At the moment the review is only opposed against the secretary of state so I will be speaking with our lawyers this week to see how the council can be a part of the opposition.’

In reaction to the news of the review, Mr Morgan said: ‘Aquind’s desperate decision to apply for a judicial review changes nothing. The facts remain that it would bring untold disruption to our city, but offers no clear local benefits.

‘At a time of widespread calls to clean up alleged dirty-money in Britain linked to Putin’s Russia, this application is not worth the paper it is written on. I am continuing to work alongside local campaigners and I will be monitoring Aquind’s challenge closely as it develops.

‘Portsmouth is united in its opposition against Aquind. Government was right to finally arrive at the correct decision to not approve it. Whatever the outcome of this application, this remains the case.’

Ms Mordaunt added: ‘I have every confidence in the original judgement. This is an unwanted scheme which would do great harm. We in Portsmouth will continue to do all we can to ensure it does not proceed.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

Subscribe here for unlimited access to all our coverage, including Pompey, for just 26p a day.