Aquind: New deadline set as the government considers controversial plans for the cross-Channel energy cable

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A new deadline for information has been set by the energy secretary as he continues to consider the controversial application for Aquind's new cross-Channel energy cable.

Grant Shapps, who is reconsidering the proposal after a the government’s initial refusal was overturned by the High Court, has given until June 20 for responses to the new information, including a raft of new planning studies. No further extension is now expected ahead of a new decision being made.

More than 400 responses were made to his original request for more information, including MPs and campaigners who have warned the project would lead to years of disruption in Portsmouth and environmental ‘destruction’.

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Aquind said the £1.3bn interconnector would have a capacity of 2GW, enough to power 1.4m homes, and ‘bring stability’ to UK energy needs.

A previous 'Let's Stop Aquind' walking protest
Picture: Sam StephensonA previous 'Let's Stop Aquind' walking protest
Picture: Sam Stephenson
A previous 'Let's Stop Aquind' walking protest Picture: Sam Stephenson

The cable would run from Normandy in France before making landfall in Eastney and running through to the substation in Lovedean. The company has confirmed initial plans to include fibre optic capability alongside it have been dropped.

But the project has attracted widespread opposition and political unanimity locally against it with criticism of the choice of route and questions over its necessity.

Geoffrey and Peter Carpenter, who own Little Denmead Farm, are among hundreds of people who have objected to the scheme which would include land they own, including Stoneacre Copse where their father’s ashes are buried.

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Lawyers representing the Carpenters said there was now evidence of the lack of need for the cable.

‘The General Court of the European Union on February 8…removed [the interconnector from] the list of Projects of Common Interest,’ their letter said. ‘The case also contains evidence about actual current need.

‘Thus, the factual circumstances have now actually changed since that direction was made and evidence from French Republic shows that there is no actual need for the Aquind Interconnector any more.’

New objections have also been made by both Conservative MPs for Portsmouth North and Meon Valley, Penny Mordaunt and Flick Drummond respectively. It is clear that the Aquind Interconnector proposal is fraught with issues that undermine its viability and integrity,’ Ms Mordaunt said.

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The leader of Portsmouth City Council’s Labour group, councillor Charlotte Gerada, said the project would have an ‘enormous’ negative effect on the city.

And campaign group Let’s Stop Aquind said it had ‘grave concerns’ and said the project was ‘casting a long shadow’ over the city.

Concerns have also been raised over the links between Aquind directors and the Conservative Party after it was revealed hundreds of thousands of pounds had been donated to its MPs by part owner Victor Fedotov and company director Alexander Temerko. Lawyers for Aquind said these donations had been correctly declared.

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Aquind spokesman Johnny Stonborough said the UK needed to be able to import electricity from overseas on days when production is low, saying 6GW was being imported, mainly from France, on Tuesday (May 30).

‘With some 400 updated and new submissions to the Department for Energy and Net Zero, time will be given to each and every one before responding,’ he said.

‘Aquind values this opportunity to respond and the importance of the trans-Channel interconnector cable for this country and is mindful of local concerns.

‘The Aquind interconnector brings stability to our energy needs by sourcing power from abroad when demand is great and the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.’

The application is being considered by the Department for Energy and Net Zero and it is expected that it will take months for a decision to be reached.