Portsmouth City Council is preparing to dig in for a final rear-guard action to fend off the proposed Aquind interconnector scheme – with the authority’s leader vowing to splash cash on costly lawyers to fight for the island in a judicial review.
The behind-the-scenes plot, revealed today by The News, will go ahead if the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng fails to support Portsmouth’s plea to refuse the energy-providing plan.
Portsmouth’s council boss, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson is hopeful Whitehall will side with the city and that he won’t need to take any further action.
But if Mr Kwarteng snubs Portsmouth, the Lib Dem chief vowed to use ‘all the council’s resources’ to fund a war of courtroom attrition for the sake of the island.
He said: ‘We need to make sure we keep the pressure on to get the right decision for the city. Bringing Aquind here is just so wrong.
‘Digging up the eastern side of the second most-densely populated city in the country is just nuts and we have got to make sure we stop them doing it.’
The plan to launch a judicial review has already been approved, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said, following discussions between civic chiefs, council lawyers and activist heads from the Let’s Stop Aquind campaign group.
Previously the authority stumped up £250,000 to pay for a team of specialist legal aces to make Portsmouth’s case against the interconnector, which would bring energy from Europe to the UK.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson would not be drawn on how much funding had been set aside for to pay for any judicial review. However, it’s anticipated to run into the tens of thousands.
The news came as protestors took to Guildhall Square on Saturday in their latest rally against the interconnector bid.
Driving rain could not dampen the spirits of the dozens who massed in the city centre to voice their fury over the ‘scandalous’ plan.
Speeches were made by Labour, Lib Dem and Green Party activists. The protest was also backed by Portsmouth’s Conservative group.
Among those speaking out included Baffins resident Hazel Lyness, who told the crowd: ‘We’ve always been fighters in Portsmouth but in all our history we have never seen such an insidious enemy as Aquind.’
Also speaking was the campaign’s youngest activist, 15-year-old Eve Mellor. The teenager from Southsea was fearful the government wouldn’t back the city.
She said: ‘It would be incredibly disappointing if the people we trust to run our country would let that occur.’
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Campaigner Paula Ann Savage was confident about the city’s chances of beating Aquind.
‘We have a feeling that it is looking in our favour,’ she added. ‘The whole city is against it.
‘It’s a campaign that’s got a powerful voice, with a big message; we’re not going to stop, we have got to fight this until the end.’
Let’s Stop Aquind’s leader, Viola Langley, added her group was ready to ramp up action if necessary.
She said: ‘The people of Portsmouth are prepared to come out, should it go ahead, say “No” and stand in front of the diggers as a barricade.’
The deadline for Mr Kwarteng’s decision is Thursday, October 21.