Campaigners issue call to arms with £500m interconnector in Lee-on-the-Solent set for approval

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Daedalus
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  • Report recommends £500m interconnector for approval
  • More than a thousand people have objected to the proposals for the IFA2 station
  • Decision to take place in meeting on Monday
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AS proposals for a £500m electrical interconnector look set to be approved, campaigners say thousands more people should have objected despite an ‘unprecedented’ number writing to a council calling on it to reject the plans.

The comments came as a highly-anticipated report by Fareham Borough Council showed that the local authority are recommended to approve National Grid’s plans for the 22m-high IFA2 station at Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent.

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 report, which was written by council officer Mark Wyatt, precedes next Monday’s meeting at Ferneham Hall in Fareham where the council’s planning committee are set to make a decision on the proposals.

His recommendation comes despite the admission that the proposed station would have ‘some impact’ on Solent Airport at Daedalus.

Also, despite the plans being contrary to the borough council’s core strategy, the report said that this was outweighed by its importance as a piece of ‘national infrastructure.’

The report revealed that of 1,144 representations that had been received from the public in regards to the application, only ten had been in support of it - meaning 99 per cent were against it.

There are thousands of people living in Lee and there are some who just don’t know the effect that this will have on their families, especially the noise

Martin Marks, chairman of the Lee-on-the-Solent Residents Association

A total of 839 people who wrote against the plans live in the borough of Gosport, which campaigners say is ‘unprecedented’ due to the fact that the application is not even being determined by Gosport Borough Council.

Martin Marks, chairman of the Lee-on-the-Solent Residents Association said: ‘For the people who live in Lee-on-the-Solent, their lives could turn to misery due to this.

‘It is being dumped on their doorstep and yes it’s a high figure for residents that wrote to Fareham but for me, it should have been much higher.

‘There are thousands of people living in Lee and there are some who just don’t know the effect that this will have on their families, especially the noise.

‘People who live near transformers always say there is this hum in the air. National Grid say it won’t be audible over night-time noise but I very much doubt this.’

Councillor John Beavis MBE, who represents Lee West on Gosport Borough Council agreed that more people should have written to oppose the development.

He said: ‘People are very unhappy about these plans being brought forward but there should be more.

‘If permitted, this building will be there for generations, there should have been thousands more.’

Councillor Stephen Philpott, who represents Peel Common on Gosport Borough Council added: ‘This is an unprecedented situation.

‘In my years as councillor, I have seen this many objections to a planning application from residents when the application was not even being decided by their local authority.’

Previously, residents associations in Lee-on-the-Solent, Peel Common and Hill Head, Gosport councillors and Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage wrote to ex-cabinet minister for local government and communities, Greg Clark MP, to take a closer look at the application and ‘call-in’ the decision by take it out of the hands of Fareham’s local authority.

Some expressed concerns that the borough council would act as ‘judge and jury’ on the application, claiming the council have a financial interest in leasing the land to the National Grid.

The council confirms in the report that a request was made and that the National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU) have yet to make a decision on whether to call it in on behalf of Sajid David MP - the current cabinet minister for local government.

Cllr Philpott said that the decision must now be taken by Mr David after the report called it a ‘piece of national infrastructure’.

It read: ‘In the opinion of officers, the importance of the facility as a piece of national infrastructure along with the size and [location] requirements of the proposal and the applicants’ endeavours to date, are significant material planning considerations which weigh heavily in favour of the proposal notwithstanding the conflict with the adopted core strategy,’

Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council said that the application did not fit the criteria to be determined by Mr David as it was not ‘a matter of national planning importance’ but added that the application could still be called-in after the committee’s decision.

He added that while the application contravened the council’s Core Strategy, National Grid were compensating by providing 38 hectares for public open space. He said: ‘We are investing £50 million into Daedalus, we will not, as landlords allow anything that will adversely effect the future of this site.

The meeting where the project’s future is decided will take place in the Solent Room at Ferneham Hall from 10am on Monday.

WHAT IS THE IFA2?

IFA2 is an electricity interconnector that allows countries to change power.

It is proposed to put the converter station at Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent.

A converter station converts electricity from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC).

AC is used in each country’s transmission system while DC is used for sending electricity along the high voltage sea cables.

Changes to energy demand in the UK has led to a focus to bring in a number of interconnectors between the UK and continental Europe.

According to National Grid, each gw of new interconnector capacity could help reduce wholesale power prices in the UK by up to two per cent.

IFA2 is planned to connect the electricity systems of the UK and France using high voltage subsea cables from Normandy in France to Lee-on-the-Solent.

National Grid are working with French company RTE to bring the project forward to be operational by 2020.

The interconnector process starts by subsea DC electricity cables reaching land at Monks Hill Beach in Hill Head, cables are then buried underground and routed across Daedalus airfield to the converter station.

Electricity is then converted from DC to AC and then travels back in cables along the coast to connect to the existing National Grid compound at Chilling which feeds the electricity into the country’s transmission network.

BREXIT WILL DELAY CONSTRUCTION BY ‘AT LEAST TWO YEARS’

A CAMPAIGNER says the decision on the proposed IFA2 is likely to be delayed because of Brexit.

Bill Hutchison, chairman of the Hill Head Residents Association said that the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union could delay the project by two years.

CRE - the French energy market regulator - pushed back an investment decision on the project until next Tuesday after Brexit prompted a further consultation with stakeholders due to uncertainties regarding the UK’s access to the electricity market.

Mr Hutchison said: ‘It doesn’t matter if the council approves the plans because any building might be delayed for the next two years due to uncertainties raised by Brexit.’

A council report ahead of the decision said the fallout from Brexit is not enough of a reason to defer the decision.

MP VOICES ‘MAJOR CONCERN’ OF IFA2 IMPACT ON ENTERPRISE ZONE

AN MP says she would be ‘devastated’ if the proposals for IFA2 compromised the Solent Enterprise Zone at Daedalus.

Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP, says any potential impact on businesses coming to the enterprise zone as a result of National Grid’s plans is a ‘major concern’ for her.

She said: ‘I worked so hard to see Daedalus brought back into use as an enterprise zone and I would be devastated if the IFA2 proposals were to jeopardise that. It is a major concern for me.’

Her concerns were shared by residents who wrote to the council to object to the proposals with criticism aimed at the plans over the potential impact it could have on the attractiveness of the enterprise zone and lack of jobs created.

As a result of the concerns, National Grid are set to provide a ‘technical resource’ to the council for a period of five years to assist potential occupiers’ understanding of IFA2 and to provide funds for a business leaflet to promote Daedalus for businesses.

MANUFACTURER RAISES CONCERNS OVER IMPACT ON AIRCRAFT

CONCERNS have been raised that aircraft using Solent Airport at Daedalus will be affected by the proposed IFA2.

Aviation manufacturer Britten Norman, who rents hangars at Daedalus, are concerned that aircraft will be affected due to a high voltage cable running under the airfield’s runway.

The council officer’s report ahead of the decision says that there will be some effects, notably that ‘there may be some deviation of compasses’ as aircraft pass over the cables.

Britten Norman are therefore objecting to the plans as according to the report, it believes National Grid have ‘failed to take proper account of the risks.’