Planners raise fears for South Downs National Park scenery in response to Aquind Interconnector consultation

NATIONAL park planners have hit back at proposals for a cross-channel power link amid fears of the ‘massive’ effect it could have on the view enjoyed by their visitors.

Friday, 12th April 2019, 10:51 am
Updated Friday, 12th April 2019, 10:57 am
Aquind Interconnector
Aquind Interconnector

Bosses at the South Downs say the Aquind Interconnector could have ‘large-scale negative effects’ on them, despite being pencilled for land 200m away from their boundary to the west of an existing National Grid substation.

The project would see cables laid to transfer power from Normandy to a UK converter station at Lovedean, in a bid to strengthen both nations' electric grids. 

But planners at the national park claim proposals to date have ‘skimmed over’ the potential impact the link could have on their beauty spot. 

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A computer-generated image of the Aquind Interconnector - with a backdrop of the rolling plains of the South Downs

The plot earmarked for the converter station was referred to as ‘option B’ at a South Downs National Park Authority planning committee meeting yesterday – being one of three potential sites considered for the infrastructure. 

Park planner Sarah Nelson said: ‘We feel option B is probably the best one, but all of them are going to have a large-scale negative impact.’ 

She added: ‘[Aquind] do provide a long decision relating to the site selection process, but we feel it skims over the impact on the national park.’ 

If construction on the converter station went ahead, it would sit 200m to 300m from the South Downs National Park’s boundary near Horndean. 

Picturing a hypothetical visit in the event the converter station is built, Ms Nelson added: ‘[Visitors] would have just got into the countryside when they are met by this development, which is not what we would wish to see.’ 

The converter station would comprise two 90m by 50m converter halls, with two smaller buildings, lighting masts, emergency lighting columns, an auxiliary power supply and cooling systems. 

South Downs planners voted unanimously at the meeting to approve a report which will lay out their response to the proposals.

It is also expected to highlight mitigation issues and suggestions for ‘camouflage design’ to help the converter station fit in with its potential surroundings.

An Aquind spokesman said: ‘Aquind welcomes South Downs National Park Authority’s acknowledgment of the wider benefits of Aquind Interconnector.

‘At the same time, Aquind recognises the sensitivities around the impact of the converter station and welcomes constructive feedback on the approach to the design parameters of the converter station, landscape mitigation and approach to construction as part of the current consultation.

Aquind is committed to continuing its engagement with SDNPA and other relevant local authorities as the proposals evolve during this pre-application period and welcomes continued engagement with all stakeholders to address any concerns regarding its proposals.

‘Aquind will consider all feedback received as part of this consultation, as well as explaining how that feedback has been taken into account in the ongoing refinement of the proposals for Aquind Interconnector.

‘An explanation of how all feedback received has been taken into account will be detailed in the consultation report that will be submitted at the same time as the application for a Development Consent Order (DCO).

The deadline for submitting feedback is midnight on Monday, April 29, 2019, and we encourage all those with an interest in the project to submit comments, either via the project website at aquindconsultation.co.uk, via email to [email protected] or in writing to FREEPOST AQUIND CONSULTATION.’

Aquind said last year a planning application for the interconnector would likely be lodged this year. 

Once submitted, the planning inspectorate will examine it before the secretary of state makes a decision on whether authorisation should be given.