The proposal made the front page, but at that stage there was no anger about it – it was more an interesting idea that would see Portsmouth have a hosting role in the country’s energy supply. Prominent councillors said they’d been told there wouldn’t be much disruption as the cabling would use ‘existing routes’.
Fast-forward three months, though, and it was a different story. After a briefing by Aquind planners, senior politicians in Portsmouth were spitting feathers. Then-leader Donna Jones rubbished the scheme as ‘pie in the sky’ and said it would cause unacceptable chaos, and from there on in, Aquind’s name has been mud in Portsmouth. There was the time when it sent letters to people’s homes and asked such invasive questions that it left many in fear that a compulsory purchase order was coming.
The plans themselves caused horror when residents realised just how long the disruption would last, and how much of the east side of the city would need to be dug up. And that’s before we get to the issues of whether the UK as a whole wants a large chunk of its energy supply to be controlled by a foreign-owned firm, and dependent on France.
The arguments against the Aquind plan were legion, and The News joined hundreds of local people in submitting an official letter of objection to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. We made the arguments in our own name, and just as importantly were happy to act as a platform for the admirable Let’s Stop Aquind group which again and again rallied community support, and kept the Aquind question prominent with marches, demonstrations, petitions, leaflet drops and an active Facebook group.
Now we’re delighted by Kwasi Kwarteng’s decision, though we await news of any appeal by Aquind. We sincerely hope it takes note of the arguments advanced by the Portsmouth coalition of residents, politicians and media, and decides to cut its losses. The question of energy supply is one thing; but don’t dig up a city to secure it, particularly a city as bloody-minded and determined as Portsmouth.