Aquind hearing: Date set for judicial review over controversial infrastructure project

A 'Let's Stop Aquind' protest last year 
Picture: Sam StephensonA 'Let's Stop Aquind' protest last year 
Picture: Sam Stephenson
A 'Let's Stop Aquind' protest last year Picture: Sam Stephenson
A DATE has been set for the judicial review hearing into the decision to reject proposals for the controversial £1.2bn Aquind interconnector between France and Portsmouth.

The High Court hearing will take place in London on November 22 and 23 where the company’s lawyers will argue that the then Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng did not correctly consider its application.

Rejecting it in January, Mr Kwarteng said ‘appropriate alternatives to the proposed route’ had not been properly considered in the wake of a huge campaign against the proposal.

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The 2GW interconnector is planned to land in Eastney before being laid along the eastern side of Portsea Island through to an interconnector in Lovedean in a construction project lasting several years.

Aquind said the new electricity link between the UK and France, which it first proposed in 2016, would make the market ‘more efficient’ and improve the security of the supply.

But opponents, including both the Conservative MP for Portsmouth North Penny Mordaunt; the Labour MP for Portsmouth South Stephen Morgan; and the Lib Dem-led city council, argued the chosen route would be environmentally-damaging and that other locations should have been chosen.

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Mr Morgan described the scheme as a ‘possible threat’ to national security while Ms Mordaunt said it threatened the UK’s energy security.

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Within weeks of Mr Kwarteng’s decision, Aquind started the appeal process and in June the firm was given permission to apply for the judicial review.

Since then, the council has been confirmed as an interested party with its lawyers set to join the government in defending the decision.

Its leader, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said it had appointed barristers to represent it next month.

‘We will be there to support the case that the secretary of state made a correct decision and that it does not need to be looked at again,’ he said. ‘We feel he made the right decision and the judicial review should not go ahead.’

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The council is funding its legal support through a £250,000 budget it allocated two years ago to fight the project.

Viola Langley of the campaign group Let’s Stop Aquind said its members were also planning to attend the hearing.

‘We are concerned that the High Court, having read the grounds for refusal, decided the judicial review could proceed but we have always said there are better choices of route for the interconnector,’ she said. ‘There are also issues that go beyond planning, particularly the background of the company.’

These fears, which also featured in a BBC Panorama investigation, centre around criticism of more than £1m in donations made by Aquind Limited director Alexander Temerko, to the Conservative Party.

Aquind was contacted for comment.