Portsmouth Aquind campaigners claim ‘battle victory’ as French refuse permit
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The Wallsend-based firm has a series of regulatory hoops to jump through and its plan – including snapping up swathes of land and rights – is currently being examined by the Planning Inspectorate.
But now the Prefet De La Seine-Maritime in France has refused an environmental permit.
It is one of 30 separate licences, permits or consents it needs on top of a British development consent order.
Former teacher Viola Langley, from Portsmouth's Let’s Stop Aquind, said: ‘We think it's a battle won but the war goes on.
‘This does not mean it is all over – (it’s) a victory the local prefet (are) rejecting this project.
‘The French are very happy but know Aquind can appeal and probably will within two months.’
Aquind said French authorities considering the environmental permit had ‘interrupted’ their process while the aftermath of this ruling was being worked out.
The firm said this was done ‘without this decision calling into question the environmental quality of the project’.
Aquind has so far spent 40m Euros – around £35m – on the project.
The costs are revealed in a submission to watchdog Ofgem and its French equivalent, where Aquind is bidding for permission to spend 32 per cent of its generated revenue – the total in French territory – how it sees fit.
The freed-up cash could be used to pay back investors or meet other financial obligations.
Under current rules all revenue generated must be spent on maintaining or operating the interconnector, or on new infrastructure for it.
So crucial is the bid that the firm has told Ofgem the interconnector ‘will not take place unless an exemption is granted’.
The company has already successfully appealed an earlier failed exemption bid to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The Ofgem consultation has been affected by the Brexit deal agreed in December last year.
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said he is continuing to make objections ‘every step of the way’.
He said: ‘It is clear there are serious implications of the Aquind interconnector for the environment and our communities on both sides of the channel.
‘It is really important Aquind and government listen and address concerns on this which can no longer be ignored.’
An Aquind spokesman said: ‘We are confident that recent decisions will not prevent us obtaining the necessary consents required to build and operate Aquind Interconnector, and as a result Aquind is continuing to engage with the appropriate stakeholders.’