A FIRM that plans to install cables through Portsmouth to bring across electricity from France has come under fire after sending out hundreds of letters that left some residents afraid they would lose their homes.
Many people in Eastney, Milton and Cosham were sent a questionnaire last week by Aquind, a firm that wants to build an electrical interconnector in Lovedean.
The interconnector would be connected to France so electricity can be bought and sold under the channel, and the undersea cables would come on to land at Eastney.
Aquind sent out 1,500 letters to people in Portsmouth who own property near the proposed route of the cables. Because it asked about personal details such as whether homes have a mortgage, and who else has an interest in the land, many people took it to mean that a compulsory purchase order was being applied for – and have hit out at the invasive and unexpected document.
The company has since said that the letter – called a Land Interest Questionnaire (LIQ) – is simply a formal part of the planning process and has apologised if it caused concern.
The scheme has previously caused controversy when previous council leader Donna Jones described it as ‘pie in the sky’ as it would cause congestion on Eastern Road for 18 months.
Howard Smith, 64, says he was furious when he received the letter on November 6.
Mr Smith, of Dellcrest Path, Cosham, said: ‘I was worried that they might have sent the letter with the intention of putting a compulsory purchase order on my house – which would explain why there were so many personal questions about my house.
‘At first, I thought it was some sort of joke, or even a scam. I phoned the council about it and they seemed to have absolutely no idea either – it’s a complete mess.
‘The questionnaire they sent just felt so invasive, and it has made me really worried about the future of my house, especially what something like this would mean for the price of my home.
‘I have no reason to give out this sort of information and no intention of doing so either.’
Stephen Rogers, of Morgan Road, Milton, also received a letter and said he feared it was a scam.
‘It was a shock to get this letter,’ said the 64-year-old. ‘I called the number for information and I couldn’t get through to anyone, and I wasn’t going to leave my details as I didn’t know who this company was. Afterwards I was thinking “Is this a scam?”. If they are such a big company then why are they sending this out? They obviously haven’t got much of a grasp of public relations.’
Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, says that Aquind only sent one email to the council to say that this letter would be sent out – which was addressed to a staff member who was on holiday.
He has since hit out at the firm for its behaviour, with Aquind now sending a clarification on its own behalf and a paying for a letter to be sent out by the council.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘When I get residents phoning me who have not slept at not or phoning me in tears because of a letter they had been delivered then something has clearly gone very. very badly wrong.
'That's why I have been very, very clear with them they they have not handled this well and need to do significantly better.
'They are now paying for an apology letter to be sent out as well as a letter from myself explaining the situation.'
A spokesperson for Aquind said: ‘Aquind is aware that a number of residents contacted the council last week regarding the recent LIQ mailing and would like to apologise for any concerns caused.
‘Aquind is required by law to conduct an LIQ as part of its DCO application to help ensure that all interested and affected parties remain informed of our plans as the project progresses.’
A public consultation on the proposals for the interconnector is expected to take place early next year.