A RUSSIAN oligarch has moved to reassure green campaigners he has no plans to dig up the South Downs to pipe electricity to the UK.
Alexander Temerko (pictured) had asked the National Grid to connect an electricity pipeline from his power station in France to the substation at Lovedean.
As the head of a consortium of investors, he wants to bring enough electricity to the south to power 1.4m homes.
But he claims the National Grid told him the Lovedean unit is close to capacity and his only option is to connect to a substation in Surrey, which would mean laying cables through the South Downs.
Reports of this led environmentalists to fear for the future of the stunning landscape.
Ray Cobbett, Hampshire co-ordinator of Friends of the Earth, said: ‘The project could mean miles of potentially very damaging underground construction across open country which, given the scale, would require government approval thus bypassing local planning authorities.’
But, in a statement, Mr Temerko told The News, ‘We are not proposing to lay an interconnector through the South Downs.
‘Our plan has always been to connect an underground interconnector carrying power from northern France to the substation at Lovedean, just a few miles inland from Portsmouth.
‘It is National Grid that has been pushing for a cable to be laid all the way to Bramley owing to a shortage of capacity, and those discussions are still ongoing.
‘In any case, the cable will be buried under the roads, having no impact on any surrounding countryside.
‘As old coal and nuclear plants are decommissioned and the supply gap widens, interconnectors are one of the quickest and cheapest ways to bring new power generation into the country.
‘Our project has the capacity to supply enough power for 1.4m households.’
A National Grid spokesman said it could not respond to Mr Temerko’s comments as a formal application has not been submitted.
But a spokesman said: ‘The first stage in any interconnector development is to request a connection to the electricity transmission network operated by National Grid.
‘Companies must put an application into National Grid’s Transmission Entry Connection register well in advance of the date they require the connection.
‘For any project to move forward they must have a signed connection agreement that is then put on a public register for transmission connections.
‘Until this happens we cannot discuss a project as it is commercially confidential.’
A South Downs National Park Authority spokesperson said: ‘New cable routes could have a significant impact on the landscapes, biodiversity and tranquillity of the national park.
‘We are not aware of any proposal related to this new electricity pipeline, but if such a project is formally proposed the authority would take similar issues into account in its response. The SDNPA also represents the English National Parks on a national committee which looks at undergrounding of existing cable routes.’
The spokesperson said that objections by the authority over the routing of cables connected to the Rampion offshore wind project off the Sussex coast had seen significant changes made.