Today’s decision by Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to delay a final answer on Aquind until 2022 is disappointing to say the least. We have always welcomed further scrutiny of this project but time is up. He must stop kicking this down the road and accept that this is the wrong company with the wrong project in the wrong place.
The Government must refuse Aquind’s application for a Development Consent Order and let residents, businesses and council authorities make future plans without this chaos hanging over their heads.
Let’s Stop Aquind campaign co-leads, Viola Langley and Paula Ann Savage said:
“This project has no merit and no benefits for communities along the route. We have campaigned hard to raise awareness of the risks to wildlife habitats, to our health and well-being, to businesses and to national security. We want Aquind stopped once and for all.”
We are not privy to the recommendations that came out of the planning examination, but it is not hard to conclude that flaws in the community consultation and the assessment of environmental and social impacts, and the inclusion of a commercial data cable, will not be resolved by endless requests for more information.
The Pandora Papers investigation revealed the hidden wealth of Aquind’s owner and cast further doubts on the suitability of this company for a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). We have seen journalists reveal the extent and reach of Aquind-related donations to Tory MPs and Ministers, in particular to those close to the planning decision. The impartiality of the Government at all stages of this project is in doubt – this alone should halt it. Failure to do so risks losing national credibility in the NSIP process and risks our country’s security.
The Secretary of State’s decision to prolong this process also flies in the face of the Government’s own energy policy to invest in the generation of UK renewable energy. UK already has enough approved interconnectors in the pipeline to satisfy a flexible energy system. This project may not be operational until 2028 by which time the UK’s energy needs will look very different from today’s.
We have had cross-party support from Labour’s Stephen Morgan MP, Conservative’s Penny Mordaunt MP, Councillors and the Leader of Portsmouth City Council. Locally, we are unified in our opposition to this unfeasible route. But nationally, conflict of interest has deeply compromised the final decision and for that the Conservative Party must be answerable.
We want the Secretary of State to take the right decision at the next deadline on 21 Jan 2022 and refuse Aquind’s application for a Development Consent Order.