Portsmouth council spends £250,000 fighting Aquind plans

A £250,000 fighting fund has been created to pay experts and lawyers to combat controversial plans to lay electrical cables through Portsmouth.

Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 7:00 am
The Milton allotments Picture: Habibur Rahman

The leader of Portsmouth City Council revealed £250,000 from the authority's contingency funds has been allocated to try to stop the £1.2bn Aquind Interconnector scheme, which would bring electricity from France through Portsmouth to Lovedean.

Unlike other planning applications in the city - that the council is able to approve or reject - jurisdiction on the Aquind scheme has been given to the government's planning inspectorate due to its scale.

Now the council is set to throw everything it can at the scheme in order to protect land that will be dug up to make way for the cables.

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Leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'Four months ago the council decided to find money to fight this. We found a quarter of a million pounds to be able to employ specialist planners and lawyers to fight the application.

'We had to do what was right for our community.'

It planned the interconnector would bring electricity from France through Eastney, Milton, Langstone Harbour and Farlington Playing Fields on its way to Lovedean. Bransbury Park, the Milton Allotments and Eastern Road are all en route.

'There are three main things that concern me about this scheme,' Cllr Vernon-Jackson said.

'First - why on earth would you land the cables at the south of the second most densely populated city in the country?

'Secondly there are only three roads in and out of the island. They are going to use part of Eastern Road for this which will cause backlog across the city.'

Concerns have been raised over potential damage to the allotments.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: 'And I am really worried about the Milton Allotments. In the maps of the areas they (Aquind) want to use there's a section on Milton Allotments which they want for access but reading the small print that means they will have the right to remove anything in the way.

'This could mean clearing large numbers of the allotments.'

Founder of the Keep Milton Green campaign group, Kimberly Barrett, said: 'Some of those allotments have been tended by families for generations so it's really upsetting. Especially at the moment where they have been a good way to boost people’s physical and mental wellbeing in lockdown.'

However, an Aquind spokesman said the allotments would not 'affected by the construction or operation of the project.'

He said: 'The cables will be installed under the allotments and Milton Locks Nature Reserve via a process known as horizontal directional drilling, which will take place between the car park located west of the Thatched House Pub and the grassed area east of Kingsley Road.

'This approach allows cables to be installed deep underground with no impact at surface level.

'To allow for inspections during construction and operation, Aquind is seeking access rights over some areas of the allotments site. However, these rights are limited to existing paths and internal roads meaning no allotment plots will be affected.

'This will be further clarified in the upcoming submission to the planning inspectorate.'

The first open floor hearing for the scheme is due to be held on December 7.

And a final decision is expected to be made in March 2021.

CONCERNED residents had been urged to make their objections to the Aquind scheme known by last night.

The final deadline for written representations to be sent to the planning inspectorate was midnight on October 6 and city politicians were vocal in encouraging members of the public to email their views in.

However, an email exchange between Portsmouth City Council officers and councillors seen by The News has suggested that these views might not be considered - as residents needed to register an interest back in February.

In the email the officer said: 'The way these examinations work mean that officially anyone who wanted to give their views to the planning inspectorate should have registered as an interested party in February 2020, however the inspectorate does have discretion to take into account written submissions so residents can email views [email protected] and they may be considered.

'Subsequently, the deadline of 11.59pm on October 6, 2020 does not apply to residents sending views to that email address.'