Stop AQUIND

WE STOPPED AQUIND…FOR NOW

Very rarely, if ever, does an issue unite people of all political persuasions, local and national politicians, and residents of all nationalities, religious beliefs, and social standings.

Aquind Interconnector is such an issue. Objections to it bound a passionate group of people together, committed to defending their city and its environs against the destructive unnecessary proposal. MPs and Councillors were unanimous in their criticism. Residents along the route are united. IT HAS BEEN STOPPED…FOR NOW…

BREAKING NEWS

Stop Aquind at The Royal Court of Justice in London

LET’S STOP AQUIND DEMANDS JUSTICE FOR PORTSMOUTH AQUIND MUST BE STOPPED – THERE IS TOO MUCH AT STAKE

Download the press release PDF HERE.

On 20 January 2022, the then Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Kwasi Kwarteng, refused to grant Aquind Limited the Development Consent Order (DCO) it sought for the Aquind Interconnector – a decision that was widely celebrated in Portsmouth. The residents of the city felt that this represented a successful conclusion to the grassroots campaign against Aquind, which was supported by both Portsmouth MP’s, the leader of the city council and unanimously by city councillors of every political stripe.

However, Aquind Limited was granted permission to apply for judicial review of the decision. The judicial review will be heard at the High Court on 22 & 23 November and consequently the issue has once again become a hot topic in the city.

The community campaign against the proposal, Let’s Stop Aquind, examines here what has, and has not, changed since the project was originally proposed in 2016.

What has changed

The economic case

The Aquind Interconnector was initially planned to take advantage of the difference in price of relatively cheap nuclear power generated in Northern France and the prevailing electricity price in the UK. A 242 kilometre High Voltage electric cable would be laid from Normandy to the South Downs, where it would join the national grid at Lovedean, North of Portsmouth, adjacent to the South Downs National Park. The plans also allowed for a high-capacity fibre-optic communications network to be installed alongside the cable, an aspect of the project that came under increasing scrutiny as it appeared to be a separate commercial enterprise.1

Since then, the economic case for the Aquind Interconnector has collapsed. Even before the pan- European energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the nuclear power on which France relies for 70% of its total needs had become significantly scarcer as a result of a costly and time-consuming maintenance of the aging EDF nuclear estate. 2

Many reactors have been taken offline, with availability currently standing at only 51% of total capacity. 3  In its own words, “Aquind is projected to flow predominantly from the lower priced French market to GB” 4 so it relies on an abundance of cheap French nuclear electricity. While the interconnector was planned to be bi-directional, carrying UK power to France when there is a surplus, the balance between importing and exporting power through interconnectors stands at 90% to 10%. In fact, despite the huge growth in interconnector capacity between the UK and Europe, the amount of power exported has stayed static over the last 10 years. 5

We believe that, given the energy security issues caused by war in Ukraine and the political effects of Brexit, selling its valuable domestic power to the UK for the private profit of the owners of Aquind is simply not a priority for France.

UK energy policy

Likewise, UK domestic energy policy has changed since 2016. There is now a focus on energy security and low-cost renewable sources such as offshore wind produced and consumed locally. The government is now committed to a “major acceleration of homegrown power in Britain’s plan for greater energy independence” 6. The Truss administration even introduced planning reforms to remove the long-term block on onshore wind projects, although this was reversed by Prime Minister Sunak 7, despite widespread public support, even amongst Tory voters. 8

Post Brexit, relying on energy imported from a foreign power through strategic infrastructure owned by an obscure Luxembourg holding company on behalf of foreign (born) investors who may not have the UK’s best interests at heart, meets none of the government’s objectives. Nor will it offer UK consumers cheaper energy, as the imported electricity, for which Aquind has negotiated an exemption from the existing pricing regime, will be competing with cheap homegrown renewables.

The political climate

The political climate has also changed dramatically in recent times. Aquind Limited has the benefit of the political connections of co-owner Alexander Temerko. Mr Temerko is the former head of Russkoe Oruzhie (Russian Weapons), a “corporation that produced armaments for Russian military forces” 9 a significant role in the Russian state arms industry, but he had been welcomed with open arms by the Conservative Party, in which he is a rising star and member of the Leader’s Group of donors. 10 He was also known to be on first name terms with former prime minister Boris Johnson 11 and ex-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, but neither retain cabinet positions.

The government recognised the strategic importance of the ownership of energy assets 12 in the National Security and Investment Act 2021, which protected against businesses perceived to be potential threats to the national interest. 13

As a result of the threat posed by Russian oligarchs assumed to be controlled by, or working for the interests of, a foreign power 14, the UK government has enforced substantial sanctions and passed the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) 2022 Act to give greater transparency to the beneficial ownership of UK properties by foreign entities. 15

What has not changed

The environmental case

The environmental case against the Aquind Interconnector remains overwhelming. The damage to onshore and shoreline wildlife, loss of bird and insect habitats, threat to protected species and loss of public sports and leisure amenities are simply unacceptable to the residents of Portsmouth. Campaigners have scorned the plan to run the cable through the precious green spaces of the UK’s most densely populated city outside of London, and demanded alternative routes be examined in sufficient detail.
Likewise, the leader of East Hampshire District Council Cllr Richard Millard, spoke out on the environmental damage threatened by the project: “I stand by our opposition to the project. We deem the impact on our environment – from our coastline up to our national park – as unacceptable.” 16

The failure to scrutinise alternatives adequately and the pollution resulting from the construction traffic and the gridlock caused by the proposed works have also been highlighted by Portsmouth City Council, with Council Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson saying of the plan: “If approved, the construction will see significant and unacceptable disruption to residents and businesses in the city, and we believe that alternative options have not been explored.”

Nothing has come to light to contradict the judgement made by then BEIS Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng, who said in his adjudication letter: “Given the adverse effects arising from the project… in particular the combination of impacts that result from the proposed landfall in an urban location… it is not possible to conclude that the need for and benefits of the proposed Development would outweigh its impacts”. 17

Community resistance to the project

Community resistance to the project remains staunch, although many residents do not yet realise that Aquind Limited is challenging the SofS decision not to approve the DCO. The project has united the disparate political factions within Portsmouth, as well as animating many non-political citizens outraged at the potential environmental damage, loss of amenities and disruption along the planned route, with no apparent benefits to the city or surrounding areas.

The political donations and lobbying campaign

The Aquind Interconnector proposal was the first interconnector to be treated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) allowing the project to bypass local planning oversight. Temerko and Aquind lobbied a wide range of BEIS ministers before and after the granting of NSIP status, including as Kwasi Kwarteng 18, Alok Sharma 19, David (now Lord) Frost 20, Anne-Marie Trevelyan 21, Andrea Leadsom 22 and Claire Perry O’Neill 23.

A former director of Aquind Limited, Martin (now Lord) Callanan, became Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility in the BEIS, the very department that would be adjudicating on the decision to approve the interconnector project, creating an extraordinary conflict of interest.

Many of these ministers had also been financially supported by Aquind Limited and/or Mr Temerko as part of a wide-ranging campaign of donations to the constituency offices of 38 past and former Conservative MP’s 24 and the Conservative Party nationally. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, arguably the second most powerful man in UK politics, has received the highest amount of any MP, benefitting from £72,500 25 out of a total of more than £1.6million in donations made by Aquind Ltd or its current and former directors in the last 10 years. 26

Aquind’s funding of, and links to, the Conservative Party are ongoing – donations of £95,000 are disclosed in its latest accounts (27 – Aquind Limited Financial Statements For the year ended 30 June 2021 Companies House) – and Alexander Temerko maintains lofty ambitions within the party, for example as a candidate for Mayor of London. 28

So the donations and political patronage continue, as does the shocking conflict of interest faced by MP’s and numerous ministers at the BEIS when considering the fate of the DCO in the event of the judicial review being successful for Aquind. Equally, Let’s Stop Aquind’s call for a full and transparent enquiry into the relationship between Aquind Limited, its owners, directors and the Conservative Party has not changed.

The Pandora Papers and the foreign funding loophole

Aquind Limited is registered in England and as such, none of the political donations it makes is illegal, given the approval of its shareholders. The company is controlled by Ukrainian-born Alexander Temerko and Russian-born Viktor Fedotov. Again, none of the personal donations made by Mr Temerko is illegal as he was granted British citizenship under the Tier 1 Investor Visa scheme, as was Mr Fedotov. 29

The scheme was scrapped by then Home Secretary Priti Patel in February 2022 30, as the government admitted it “had given rise to security concerns, including people acquiring their wealth illegitimately and being associated with wider corruption.” 31. Since the release of the Pandora Papers, the same concerns have been raised with regards to Mr Fedotov’s investment into Aquind. 32 Aquind accounts show that it has never had any trading income and is currently “fully reliant” on Project Finance Group S.A. for funding (33 – Aquind Limited Financial Statements For the year ended 30 June 2021 Companies House), a Luxembourg registered business owned by Mr Fedotov to which is it about £35million in debt 34. Previously, £25million in funding for Aquind Limited had been provided by an offshore vehicle, OGN Enterprises Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands. 35

Although registered in the UK, Aquind Limited was (and still is) a regular donor to the Conservative Party (36 – Aquind Limited Financial Statements For the year ended 30 June 2019 Companies House), while having no trading income, paying no UK tax 37 and was funded by an offshore registered company whose beneficial owners and sources of income were both unknown and unknowable at the time. Under these circumstances, it is hard to have full confidence in ministerial claims that “The Conservative Party does not accept foreign donations” and that “All donations to the party are received … after appropriate due diligence, from permissible sources.” 38

So despite the recent rash of UK corporate transparency legislation, questions remain over Aquind’s backers, and the loophole by which funds of unknown origin can legally be used to support UK political parties remains firmly open.

The threat to national security and the chilling effects on public debate

We feel that we need to be certain that key energy infrastructure is not controlled by a foreign power, and that it is built and managed by competent and professional engineers in the UK’s national interest and poses no threat to our marine or shoreline environment. Aquind Limited has no trading history of any kind, let alone any experience of managing billion-pound cross-channel cabling projects. Its lack of experience, debt-reliant business model, history of political patronage and opaque funding pose significant questions over its suitability to manage a project of this nature within 2 miles of the home of the British Navy.
The belief that the Aquind Interconnector poses a potential threat to national security remains unchanged. This analysis is shared by Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan 39, Portsmouth North North MP Penny Mordaunt 40 and the leader of Portsmouth City Council Gerald Vernon-Jackson 41.

Despite the significant public interest in the issues raised by the Aquind Interconnector, Aquind Limited and Mr Temerko have retained the international law firm Schillings, a move which threatens to shut down open debate and reporting. The Portsmouth local newspaper The News, a vocal supporter of the campaign against Aquind, has recently been awarded regional campaign of the year at the Society of Editors’ Media Freedom Awards, for “the courage and determination of its journalists to report on matters of significant public interest when others may have walked away” and its “sustained commitment to reporting… despite an unprecedented legal challenge.” 42

Many questions remain, such as how close did Mr Temerko get to the Kremlin during his career as arms dealer to the Russian state? Many will ask what Mr Temerko is trying to achieve with his deep interest in, and financial support for, the Conservative Party and how close did he get to Boris Johnson and other senior members of the party?

Given the strategic significance of the interconnector project and the energy security crisis, these questions are part of a legitimate public debate. However, outlets such as The Times 43 and Reuters 44 as well as MP Penny Mordaunt 45 have all come under legal challenge regarding commentary around Aquind, demonstrating the chilling effects of legal threats on free speech in our democracy 46.

Let’s Stop Aquind demands justice for Portsmouth. Aquind must be stopped – there is too much at stake.

Lets Stop Aquind 22/11/2022

What Is the Problem?

Aquind’s proposal is to install cables, designed to carry 2 million watts of electricity, under Eastney beach and to dig trenches and drill tunnels from the landing-place, South to North, to connect the cables to The National Grid at Lovedean. Electricity generated in Europe could flow to the UK and vice versa. The construction of this project would mean many months of disruption and untold damage to the fabric of the city and along the route. Toxic material long-buried safely in landfill sites might be unearthed, further harming the environment in a city already suffering severe congestion.

Traffic chaos, causing much pollution, would negatively affect the people who live in, and those who would want to visit, Portsmouth. Let us not forget Portsmouth is the 2nd most densely populated city outside London.

The project is being imposed upon the city and South Hampshire by the Government. It was rejected by Portsmouth City Council and the various County and Parish Councils along the route when first proposed by the developer, Aquind. Following the local rejection, Aquind took their case to the Government Department dealing with energy supply (BEIS). They wanted the project to be given NSIP(Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project) status and then to apply for a DCO( Development Consent Order) thus removing all decision-making from local to national level.

The then Secretary of State for the Department directed that their request be granted. This was no surprise as he had previously been publicly very supportive of the scheme. This direction effectively took control and any decisions out of the hands of local interests. It allowed the developer to push on with the proposal, following legislation embodied in the Planning Act of 2008. Examination of their application by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) took place this year, its Recommendation went to BEIS in early June and in September a decision will be announced by the current SoS (Secretary of State) at BEIS Kwasi Kwarteng.

Read More About The Issues

Latest News

Below are some of our latest news articles, you can read more news HERE.

Stop Aquind and the Aquind Interconnector in the News

With all the attention around the courts at the moment, Aquind has been in the news and so has Stop Aquind. Have a read of the latest articles linked below: Aquind hearing: a five-year fight sees latest battle in the Royal Courts of JusticeFacing hundreds of pages of documentation on Aquind’s five-year fight to dig …

Let’s Stop Aquind Demands Justice for Portsmouth at the High Court. Aquind Must be Stopped – There is Too Much at Stake

Download this press statement as a PDF On 20 January 2022, the then Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Kwasi Kwarteng, refused to grant Aquind Limited the Development Consent Order (DCO) it sought for the Aquind Interconnector – a decision that was widely celebrated in Portsmouth. The residents …

Aquind Limited Given Permission to Bring Judicial Review of Secretary of State for Business and Energy’s Decision

We have heard that Aquind Limited has been given permission to bring a Judicial Review of the Secretary of State for Business and Energy’s decision not to allow Aquind’s proposed Interconnector, consisting of high voltage electrical cables and a communications network between Northern France and the South Downs. Let’s Stop Aquind is disappointed that Aquind …

Press Releases from Stop Aquind

Let’s Stop Aquind Demands Justice for Portsmouth at the High Court. Aquind Must be Stopped – There is Too Much at Stake

Download this press statement as a PDF On 20 January 2022, the then Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Kwasi Kwarteng, refused to grant Aquind Limited the Development Consent Order (DCO) it sought for the Aquind Interconnector – a decision that was widely celebrated in Portsmouth. The residents …

Aquind Limited Given Permission to Bring Judicial Review of Secretary of State for Business and Energy’s Decision

We have heard that Aquind Limited has been given permission to bring a Judicial Review of the Secretary of State for Business and Energy’s decision not to allow Aquind’s proposed Interconnector, consisting of high voltage electrical cables and a communications network between Northern France and the South Downs. Let’s Stop Aquind is disappointed that Aquind …

Politicians, media and activists join forces to fight Aquind’s judicial review

Let’s Stop Aquind co-founders Paula Savage and Viola Langley joined a virtual meeting with both Portsmouth MP’s, Council Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson and the Editor of the Portsmouth News Mark Waldron yesterday. The meeting discussed the ongoing threat that the Aquind Interconnector poses to the environment, the residents of Portsmouth & the South Downs, and to …

Press Release: Campaigners Thank City Residents for Fighting Back and Securing an Amazing VICTORY

20th January 2022: Last night’s decision by the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng to refuse to grant Aquind the Development Consent Order (DCO) is the one that we have campaigned so hard for.

Campaign co-leads, Viola Langley and Paula Savage said:

We are all delighted at this decision and so are communities along the route. We have campaigned tirelessly for the last 18 months to give ordinary people a voice in what has been a difficult planning process. So many of the problems we highlighted were not addressed and people felt strongly that they had not been listened to.”

The campaign started as a group of concerned citizens wanting to protect green spaces and insist on a voice in the planning process. As the full risks of Aquind became clear, more people joined the campaign, supported by other environmental organisations, Portsmouth’s MPs – Stephen Morgan (Labour) and Penny Mordaunt (Conservative) – the Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson and councillors, and national activist group, Led By Donkeys. We are grateful for all their support but the biggest round of applause must go to the ordinary people of Portsmouth and communities along the proposed route of the interconnector who went out of their way to have their voices heard.

Read the full press release about the open letter HERE.

Read the front-page article by The News HERE.
Read the article in the Financial Times HERE.
Read the article by the BBC HERE.

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