Hampshire councils round on Aquind at first public hearing for £1.2bn interconnector

COUNCILS have raised concerns about the environmental impact of a proposed interconnector.

By David George
Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 2:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 5:09 pm

Today, the government’s Planning Inspectorate held a preliminary meeting to discuss the controversial £1.2bn Aquind interconnector, bringing electricity from France.

It would run from Eastney, to Milton, along Eastern Road, under Langstone Harbour and through Farlington Playing Fields on its way to Lovedean, west of the National Grid substation.

Read More

Read More
Aquind director Alexander Temerko says he has 'zero' political influence

Sign up to our daily newsletter

An image provided by Aquind of inside an existing converter station. Picture: ABB

At the meeting, representatives from councils in Portsmouth, Hampshire, Havant and Winchester voiced their fears about the environmental damage that could be done by the project.

The meeting today comes after The News revealed Portsmouth City Council had criticised Aquind’s ‘draconian’ bid for compulsory acquisition powers and rights over swathes as land.

Ian Maguire, assistant director of planning at the council, said: ‘The issue of public open space is of huge importance to our residents, as is the use of these spaces for grassroots sport and recreation.

‘We would wish to discuss this with the applicant further.’

A business minister is set to make a decision on advice from the Planning Inspectorate, as in July 2018 it was decided the project should be considered a nationally significant infrastructure project.

Richard Turney, who represented Hampshire County Council, said: ‘There are real concerns about the highways impact and how the scheme will be managed.

‘There are a number of highways and climate change issues – time should be set aside for this and there are issues with flooding which we also consider to be particular importance.’

As reported, Crown Estate has yet to give Aquind permission to use its land at Eastney to bring the undersea cable ashore.

The interconnector has been fiercely opposed by politicians in Portsmouth and the surrounding area, but Aquind itself insists that the development will reduce energy prices and provide secure energy for the country.

Councils want several issue-specific hearings to address their concerns.

Simon Bird, who represented Aquind at the preliminary hearing, said: ‘Clearly, until we get to the deadline, the need for issue-specific hearings will not be ascertained with any certainty.’

There is a public examination meeting due to take place on September 8.

Ex-councillor takes gloves off over consultation

A FORMER councillor and Portsmouth resident is duking it out with legal teams and project managers over the consultation process for the proposed interconnector.

Alistair Thompson, who previously served as a Conservative councillor in the city, has been going toe-to-toe with Aquind over the consultation held for the interconnector in 2018.

He argues that residents weren’t made aware of the consultation, and so couldn’t give the necessary feedback to the company.

Today, he spoke at the preliminary hearing for the interconnector, held by the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

He said: ‘As someone who has served on the city council, this meant to be at the heart of the planning process.

‘I spoke to a large number of residents and they had not been contacted or seen signage.

‘These signs were eventually put up but I believe residents were completely unaware of the application and subsequent consultation.’

Mr Thompson said there ‘may be advantages’ to having the interconnector in Portsmouth, but insisted that the Planning Inspectorate take his thoughts into consideration when making the final decision.

Martin Jarvis, an Aquind representative at the meeting, said: ‘Eighty notices were out up and both sides of the sheets were facing outwards.

‘We would refute that there weren’t adequate notices and we have communicated with Portsmouth City Council throughout.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

Thank you for reading this story. The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on our advertisers and thus our revenues.

The News is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism. You can subscribe here for unlimited access to Portsmouth news and information online.

Every subscription helps us continue providing trusted, local journalism and campaign on your behalf for our city.