Campaigners call for cabinet secretary to look over IFA2 decision after councillors give approval to plans

The meeting about the IFA2 interconnector Picture: Sarah Standing (170074-1196)
The meeting about the IFA2 interconnector Picture: Sarah Standing (170074-1196)

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  • Campaigners says cabinet secretary needs to give his say on plans for £500m interconnector
  • Hundreds attended landmark meeting as councillors approved plans for IFA2
  • More details on converter station to be submitted later this year.
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We are not done fighting this yet.

This was the pledge from campaigners after councillors gave the green light to proposals for a £500m electrical connector on a former Navy airfield.

What the interconnector IFA2 site at Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent would look like

What the interconnector IFA2 site at Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent would look like

The decision on the IFA2 project was made at a packed-out meeting of Fareham Borough Council’s planning committee at Ferneham Hall in Fareham yesterday.

More than a thousand objections had been aimed at National Grid’s proposals ahead of the meeting and 15 passionate deputations were subsequently made during the proceedings against the proposals, which each garnered a round of applause from an audience of around 300 people.

The proposals involve the construction of a 22m-high converter station to the north of Daedalus airfield at Lee-on-the-Solent which will be connected across the channel to France via subsea cables.

Councillor Stephen Philpott, who represents Peel Common on Gosport Borough Council said he and fellow anti-IFA2 campaigners would look to have the plans now ‘called in’ by Sajid David, the Secretary of State for local government.

We won the public’s vote on this but we lost the political vote

Councillor Stephen Philpott

Following the decision, he said: ‘Our plan is to have this decision now called in so it can be independently verified. It needs to be looked over now that a decision has been made.’

The council previously confirmed that requests had been made to have the decision called-in and it is now up to the National Planning Casework Unit to decide on whether it is necessary.

Cllr Philpott added: ‘We won the public’s vote on this, but we lost the political vote.

‘I’m afraid many, many people living in Gosport will be very disappointed by this decision.’

During the meeting, Cllr Philpott gave a fiery deputation against the plans.

He told the committee: ‘If you permit these plans, you will be pressing the detonator and trashing your own Core Strategy.

‘Developers will be driving coach and horses through the local plan.’

Councillors gave full planning permission for the subsea cables which will connect to the existing National Grid compound at Chilling and outline permission for the converter station, meaning it’s size and design will need to be signed off at a later date.

The vote was seven in favour and two against, with Portchester councillor Roger Price and Sarisbury councillor John Butts both rejecting the plans.

Cllr Price said: ‘We have been put in this situation because of the failure of successive governments to provide enough options for electricity.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage also spoke at the meeting, urging the committee to reject the proposals.

She said that while she was not against the idea of interconnectors, she said Daedalus was ‘simply the wrong site’ for IFA2.

Speaking before the committee, she said: ‘We cannot jeopardise the future of employment at this site.

‘Having extremely high voltage cables going under the runway is simply something to avoid at all costs. We cannot put lives at risk.’

Councillor Carolyn Heneghan, Fareham borough councillor for Stubbington, who signed a letter calling for the decision to be called in, said that she was ‘very disappointed’ by the committee’s decision.

Speaking following the meeting, she said: ‘I’m totally and utterly against IFA2. I will now carry on supporting the people who have voiced their views against it. The plans need to be called in.’

While a decision on whether the plans are called in is now up in the air, an investment decision by French energy market regulator CRE is due to be made today.

Concerns had been raised previously that the fallout from Brexit would lead to delays on any construction taking place on the build and CRE held a consultation with stakeholders last month to determine whether or not more funds should be committed to the project.

Richard Astbury of the Hill Head Residents Association brought this into question during his deputation, prompting applause from the audience.

He said: ‘No doubt it is total coincidence that this meeting is taking place the day before the French official announcement that they are withholding their approval for IFA2 until the terms of Brexit are clear.

‘There is going to be a Brexit delays of at least two years from the end of March before National Grid is going to build IFA2, there is no need to write a blank cheque now.’

National Grid hope to have IFA2 built by 2020.

AVIATION MANUFACTURER SAYS PLANS FOR IFA2 ARE NOT ‘ROBUST’ ENOUGH

AN AVIATION manufacturer called on the committee to reject the proposals for IFA2, after claiming the proposals were not ‘robust’ enough.

Britten-Norman, who have continuously objected to National Grid’s plans, are the only one of the current businesses at Daedalus to question the proposals and a representative for the company made a deputation during yesterday’s meeting.

Mike Murray said: ‘We have been involved at Daedalus for seven years now.

‘We back the idea of the project but its not in a form that we can currently support.

‘The proposal is unprecedented and highly unusual.

‘We need to be sure that any adverse affect does not impact on safety.’

Britten-Norman have been in opposition to the proposals due to the fact that one of the high voltage cables will be running under the airfield’s runway.

A report by independent consultants Arcadis determined that there would be no adverse effect on the airfield, yet the report by Fareham Borough Council officer Mark Wyatt ahead of yesterday’s meeting determined that there ‘may be some effects’ such as the deviation of aircraft when coming in to close proximity with the airfield.

In response to the decision of approval, a spokesperson for National Grid said: ‘IFA2 will make a significant contribution to the Government’s target of increasing interconnector capacity to 10 per cent by 2020.’

The spokesperson added: ‘It will play an important role helping the reduce the cost of electricity for homes and businesses, provide opportunities for shared use of more diverse sources of generation and help to improve electricity supplies in the UK.’

UNCERTAINTY REMAINS OVER NOISE WITH QUESTION LEFT ‘UNANSWERED’

THE uncertainty regarding the potential noise of IFA2 on those living nearby remained an ‘unanswered question’ following yesterday’s decision.

Campaigners, residents and councillors raised the issue of what noise the station would create on multiple occasions during the contentious meeting, although, the committee said it was happy with the information it had been given.

Martin Marks, chair of the Lee Residents’ Association said: ‘National Grid have accepted that the equipment in the huge building can generate 95db of noise at source.

‘That is generally considered as equivalent to heavy lorry noise and this plant will be running 24/7.

‘National Grid say that they will clad the equipment and bring the sound levels down to those at night to 30-35dB.

‘That’s fine - but what happens if that is exceeded? At a consultation meeting last year, National Grid admitted that they could make no guarantees on noise levels.’

The noise and stature of the potential building also concerned Rob Massingham, who lives in Hill Head.

He said: ‘What is the point in keeping the lights and smart phones on if it blights the lives of those living nearby?

Councillor Shaun Cunningham, who represents the Liberal Democrats on Fareham Borough Council said: ‘I think they made the wrong decision. There are so many unanswered questions regarding the application, such as the impact of noise.’

Councillor Nick Walker, chairman of the planning committee said: ‘Having looked at and balanced all relevant planning issues, it is considered that the proposal would make a valuable contribution towards securing the supply of electricity for the nation.

‘While the planning committee acknowledged that some negative impacts could arise, measures have put in place to ensure that these are kept to a minimum.’