Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

French mayors and residents along the Normandy coast are campaigning to block a cross-channel cable project backed by a Ukrainian-born businessman who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative party.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Britain’s business secretary, is set to decide this week whether to give the go-ahead for a £ 1.2bn project. Pounds to the 148-kilometer cable between Normandy and Hampshire. The company says the connection, which will run through Portsmouth, can supply up to 5% of the UK’s electricity need.

Opposition members have highlighted more than £ 1m. In donations given to the conservatives of the company, Aquind, and one of its directors, Alexander Temerko, a British industrialist born in Ukraine.

Labor says the project is “marked by crime”. This claim is vehemently rejected by the company, which says the scheme could play a crucial role in helping secure Britain’s energy supply.

The project faces strong opposition in Portsmouth from council and campaigners who say it will have a detrimental effect on the city and cause widespread disruption.

The proposal is to run the cable from the village of Lovedean in eastern Hampshire to Portsmouth, across the canal to the French coast and to its end point at the small settlement of Barnabos in Normandy.

An alliance has now been formed between the French mayors on or near the route to oppose the project.

Photograph of Durand in formal uniform in military style with a hood at the top, braided sleeves, medals and white gloves
Pierre-André Durand, the prefect of Normandy, has rejected Aquind’s application. Photo: Raphael Lafargue / Sipa / Rex Shutterstock

“The company is very aggressive,” said Jean-Marie Tabesse, mayor of Biville-la-Baignarde, one of the villages along the proposed route for the cable to the connecting station in Barnabos, where it will link to the French national network. “They never take no for an answer. They never listen. ”

The coastline where the cable will land is known as the alabaster coast because of its chalk-white cliffs. It was a favorite spot of the painter Claude Monet. The cable would reach the French coast at a car park and mini golf course at Hautot-sur-Mer, a popular place for tourists.

Last June, Aquind submitted a “occupation rights” notice to the mayor of Hautot-sur-Mer for construction and excavation work on the town’s seafront.

It was rejected by the mayor, Jean-Jacques Brument, who says he will never give permission. “Nothing obliges us to cede this plot to them,” Brument told a French newspaper. “They are as stubborn as fools.”

Jean Nicolas, one of the founders of Non à Aquind, a pressure group in the Dieppe area, said high-voltage transmission cables should not be routed through populated areas.

He said: “We do not want an electric power cable near our villages and we do not want the outage. That’s a crazy idea. ”

Aquind applied to the Planning Inspectorate for a development permit in England in November 2019. The proposal was included in a list of projects of common interest from the EU in November 2017, which makes it possible to quickly follow up on schemes. However, it was removed from the list in October 2019.

The scheme was rejected by Pierre-André Durand, the prefect of Normandy, in January. Aquind challenges the decision and believes that it will not stand in the way of obtaining the necessary planning permission.

Head and shoulders photograph of Temerko in blue suit and tie
Alexander Temerko has donated more than £ 700,000 to the Conservatives. Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Campaigns from Let’s Stop Aquind in Portsmouth say the power cables will involve construction through and under parks, allotment gardens and wild open areas. Viola Langley from the campaign group said: “This would cause absolute chaos in Portsmouth and beyond. We do not want this. ”

Aquind is a subsidiary of a Luxembourg-based company, Aquind Energy. Company reviews say the company’s “individuals with significant control” are Russian-born oil businessman Viktor Fedotov and Temerko, a prominent conservative supporter. The British company has donated more than £ 430,000 to the party. Temerko, a director of the company, has donated more than £ 700,000.

Lord Callanan, Minister of Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility, is a former director of Aquind, who resigned in June 2017. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says he will have no role in the decision on the project.

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said: “Aquind would cause devastating disruption for Portsmouth, the most densely populated city after London. Roads, parks and the precious natural environment would be torn up. Residents will face noise, dust and huge traffic problems. This national infrastructure project has been marked by crime. ”

Aquind says all of its donations to the Conservatives were created correctly and have been legally declared. It does not consider that the removal of the project from the European list of projects of common interest is an obstacle to securing the relevant permits.

The company said in a statement: “The French planning process is underway and the project continues to engage with all relevant parties and authorities.

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