Aquind: Campaigners send letter to secretary of state as final decision for project approaches

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Campaigners have sent an impassioned letter to Claire Coutinho, the Secretary of State for energy security and net-zero, as the final decision on the controversial £1.2bn Aquind project draws near.

The project proposes laying interconnector cables connecting Portsmouth and Normandy in France. The cable would run from Normandy 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.

The High Court overturned the government’s 2022 decision to block the project, prompting the Secretary of State (SoS) to redetermine the scheme.

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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

In its letter, campaign group Let’s Stop Aquind emphasises its primary concern about environmental damage to green spaces along the city’s eastern coast, referred to as “the lungs of the city.” It argued that the proposed route along the A2030 would lead to “madness” involving increased traffic, disruption, additional costs, and loss of trade, impacting businesses citywide.

“The traffic congestion and pollution caused by the works and the hundreds of heavy vehicle movements required will choke the city and worsen our already dangerously poor air quality,” the letter said.

“Your predecessor determined that the route could not be justified in this urban setting, nor could he ‘conclude… that the need for and benefits of the proposed development would outweigh its impacts’ and nothing whatsoever has changed.”

Moreover, the group questions the validity of the project’s original business case, which aimed to exploit the price difference between UK and French power. They argue that this case has become “highly questionable” since the UK became a net exporter of electricity in January.

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While there is no set deadline for the SoS to determine the Development Consent Order there was a deadline to submit key information which has now passed.

The SoS also received a letter from the leader of Portsmouth City Council Steve Pitt, who echoed the concerns expressed by the campaign group. The letter follows an agreement reached between Aquind and the council which ensures sea defence works are not impacted by the plans.

“As a densely populated island city, the planned route is both impractical and unacceptable. It will severely impact our residents’ everyday lives and wellbeing and impact our environment,’ he wrote.

“I hope you will continue to listen to the objections of local people and uphold the decision taken by the Secretary of State in January 2022 to refuse development consent.”