Aquind in Portsmouth: Latest updates as business secretary delays making decision on £1.2bn interconnector until January 2022

BUSINESS secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has sparked anger by delaying a decision to approve or reject the Aquind interconnector.

By Ben Fishwick
Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:50 pm
Let's Stop Aquind protesters, Fort Cumberland car park, Eastney. Picture: Chris Moorhouse   (jpns 131021-09)
Let's Stop Aquind protesters, Fort Cumberland car park, Eastney. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 131021-09)

The huge £1.2bn project would see a cross-Channel power cable come ashore at Eastney and run up to Lovedean – with fears construction would cause chaos in the area.

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Today Mr Kwarteng was set to announce his decision following an examination by the Planning Inspectorate. But he has said that he will push the deadline back until January.

It comes after questions have been raised on the process as Aquind and its owners have made political donations worth £1.4m to the Conservative Party and its MPs. The company said it complies with the law.

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Last updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2021, 15:59

  • Decision due on £1.2bn interconnector coming ashore at Eastney
  • Fierce opposition warn project will cause chaos in Portsmouth
  • Questions have been repeatedly raised about owners’ donations to Conservative MPs

Here is the business secretary’s full statement

This is the statement from Kwasi Kwarteng: ‘This Statement concerns an application for development consent made under the Planning Act 2008 by AQUIND Limited for the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of the UK elements of a 2,000MW bi-directional subsea electrical power interconnector between Normandy in France and Lovedean in Hampshire.

‘Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make a decision on an application within three months of the receipt of the Examining Authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) of the Act to set a new deadline. Where a new deadline is set, the Secretary of State must make a Statement to Parliament to announce it. The original deadline for the decision on the AQUIND Interconnector application was 8 September 2021. This deadline was previously extended to 21 October 2021.

‘I have decided to set a new deadline of no later than 21 January 2022 for deciding this application. Following receipt of the report from the Examining Authority, I required clarification from the applicant on several issues. Interested parties were given the opportunity to comment on the applicant’s response. I have decided that further work is necessary to consider the application in detail including whether further information is required, and this requires an extension to the deadline.

‘The decision to set the new deadline for this application is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.’

Portsmouth Conservatives ‘extremely frustrated’ by delay

Portsmouth Conservative leader Councillor Simon Bosher - who this month called on prime minister Boris Johnson to step in - was ‘extremely frustrated’ by news of ministerial inaction. He said: ‘It is extremely disappointing that the decision has been delayed until the New Year. ‘Portsmouth Conservatives have maintained our opposition to the scheme from the outset and will continue to do so. ‘Portsmouth needs this scheme to be rejected sooner rather than later - not kicked into the long grass.’

Here’s how Stop Aquind campaign has reacted

Let’s Stop Aquind campaign co-leads, Viola Langley and Paula Ann Savage said: ‘This project has no merit and no benefits for communities along the route.

‘We  have campaigned hard to raise awareness of the risks to wildlife habitats, to our  health and well-being, to businesses and to national security. We want Aquind  stopped once and for all.’

Portsmouth South MP responds to the delay

Stephen Morgan said: ‘The Business Secretary has once again ducked a decision on this disastrous project, which will cause daily disruption in Portsmouth and threatens our national security.

‘With clear community opposition to the plans, and fresh fraud allegations against the company’s Conservative party donors, the case for stopping Aquind has never been clearer.

‘But the Secretary of State has chosen more dither and delay, raising further questions about what exactly the company’s owners received in return for their generous donations to his party.

‘It’s high time the government stopped Aquind once and for all. Ministers must put an end to the uncertainty for Portsmouth and protect our national infrastructure.’

The Portsmouth South MP has long opposed the Aquind interconnector project, working alongside the Let’s Stop Aquind grassroots group.

Aquind decision delayed until 2022

The decision on Aquind has been delayed until January 2022.

It had been expected today, but has now been pushed back until the new year.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has posted on social media calling today ‘judgement day’.

He said: ‘Today is judgement day for this government.

‘Will the business secretary do what is right for Portsmouth and decide to #StopAQUIND or will he side with AQUIND’s billionaire owners who gave £700k to 1 in 10 Tory MPs?’

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is due to make a decision on approving or rejecting the £1.2bn Aquind interconnector

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