Aquind: Portsmouth defiant in protest against interconnector scheme where cables would tear through city

Rallying cries of ‘let’s stop Aquind’ rang round Guildhall Square as protestors vented their disgust at the interconnector scheme.
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Crowds gathered to fight against the electricity interconnector cable scheme which would see swathes of the city ripped up. The campaign group Stop Aquind were joined by councillors and politicians from across the political spectrum on Saturday. It was the final demonstration before the April 28 deadline in which objections can be sent to energy minister Grant Shapps.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt pulled no punches and lambasted the company for its ‘bully boy’ tactics – telling Aquind representatives to read the plaque in memory of those who stood up to bullies by protecting the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Protestors said the Aquind proposal would be 'catastrophic' to the city. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-023)Protestors said the Aquind proposal would be 'catastrophic' to the city. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-023)
Protestors said the Aquind proposal would be 'catastrophic' to the city. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-023)
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She said: ‘There are two types of people in this world. There are those that stand and fight for what they believe in, and those that roll over and lie down.

‘The people of Portsmouth are the former. We don’t just stand up and fight, we love a fight. We are so damn good at it that others rally to our cause.

‘Aquind, it is in your best interests to throw in the towel now.’

Speaking to The News afterwards, she added: ‘We have shown Aquind how much resolve we have and we will send them packing for good. We can’t leave anything to chance and we must keep energising this campaign. We all know what this scheme is.’

Paula Ann Savage delivers a speech on behalf of Stephen Morgan MP at the Stop Aquind rally on April 22 in Guildhall Square. Picture: Chris Moorhouse.Paula Ann Savage delivers a speech on behalf of Stephen Morgan MP at the Stop Aquind rally on April 22 in Guildhall Square. Picture: Chris Moorhouse.
Paula Ann Savage delivers a speech on behalf of Stephen Morgan MP at the Stop Aquind rally on April 22 in Guildhall Square. Picture: Chris Moorhouse.
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The cross-Channel scheme was rejected by then business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng last year. It was resurrected after Aquind won a judicial review so the government has to vote again.

Under its plans, cables would be laid at Eastney, routed up the eastern side of Portsea Island – causing years of disruption to Eastern Road – before going to an interconnector in Lovedean on the edge of the South Downs National Park.

Alexander Temerko – a British citizen born in the former USSR – is listed as Aquind’s director and has donated over £1m to the Tories. Staunch opposition to the scheme from politicians, campaigners and The News has been rife since its inception.

Viola Langley, leader of Stop Aquind, was left unconvinced by Aquind’s open letter to residents. ‘The letter actually caused more concerns,’ she said. ‘We won’t just accept the recent ruling for the proposal to be heard again, we will keep fighting.

Penny Mordaunt MP at the Stop Aquind rally in Guildhall Square on April 22. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-026)Penny Mordaunt MP at the Stop Aquind rally in Guildhall Square on April 22. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-026)
Penny Mordaunt MP at the Stop Aquind rally in Guildhall Square on April 22. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-026)
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‘When you engage with national players, you must be willing to fight for your beliefs. We have shown we are a force to be reckoned with.’

Ms Langley added that 50 pages of research has been sent to the government and other energy projects being considered would meet the UK’s needs.

Onlookers cheered as she lamented the proposals on the Guildhall steps and said the city would be ‘carved up’ if it was passed. Paula Ann Davies, 56, of Milton, has been campaigning against Aquind on environmental grounds.

Stop Aquind rally, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, on April 22. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-032)Stop Aquind rally, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, on April 22. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-032)
Stop Aquind rally, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, on April 22. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-032)

The cause is more personal to her as her father died of asbestos poisoning. She gave a heart-warming speech about how her dad told her his lungs felt like brittle plastic.

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‘It will be catastrophic to the environment,’ she said. ‘I can only hope the government will stand by Kwasi Kwarteng’s original decision.

‘When I realised that they were digging through areas of toxic waste, I was horrified. We won’t give up and we’re in it for the long haul.’ Portsmouth City Council (PCC) leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the plans to dig up Eastern Road would ‘cause chaos’ for years and the proposals were ‘clearly mad’.

‘We know it’s nuts, and I’m sure the government will see it’s nuts as well,’ he added. ‘If I was the secretary of state making this decision, I would be frightened that Penny would kneecap me if I made the wrong decision. So I would suggest he either makes the right decision or get better health insurance.’

The Liberal Democrat politician added that PCC has put away £250,000 for specialist lawyers and planning consultants to oppose Aquind if the scheme is passed. Statements from Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, Meon Valley MP Flick Drummond and French counterparts Non à Aquind were read to the crowds.

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Part of Mr Morgan’s statement read: ‘We have made clear our concerns about the project on environmental grounds. Aquind’s plan would be devastating for Portsmouth’s precious marine wildlife, as well as birds and insects.

Viola Langley giving a speech at the Stop Aquind protest. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-022)Viola Langley giving a speech at the Stop Aquind protest. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-022)
Viola Langley giving a speech at the Stop Aquind protest. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220423-022)

‘It would cause long-term disruption to Portsmouth’s valued open spaces with the unmitigated loss of recreational space.’ Lord Mayor councillor Hugh Mason said ‘rational’ thinking would mean the project is rejected.

SEE ALSO: Aquind response

He added: ‘We are an island city which has an advanced but vulnerable economy. If you make it difficult, it will break. The route will be damaging to town and country.’

Protestor Jan Dennis, 75, of Southsea, added: ‘You can never say never, but if we don’t win, something is very wrong with democracy.

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‘Aquind believe they can run rough shot on the people of Portsmouth, and we won’t stand for it.’ An Aquind spokesman said the project is needed to solve Britain’s energy shortages. He added: ‘We’re not making enough of our own, and anytime during the day, particularly at night, we are bringing in electricity from the continent already.

‘If we have to meet our net-zero and decarbonisation targets, then we are going to have to find clean energy. I absolutely understand why people feel so strongly, but digging up your road outside your front door is something that is temporary.’

Addressing why other sites were not considered, the spokesperson compared it to finding the right spot for your router at home. ‘A number of other possibilities were looked at and rejected, on very technical grounds,’ he said.

‘This is not a hare-brained scheme invented by two businessmen, this is a very sophisticated project and we have looked at absolutely everything required.’

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The spokesman added that proper safeguards will be taken during construction and an open dialogue will be made with residents.

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