Exclusive: South Downs and New Forest national parks under threat from electricity pipeline plan

Pipeline from France cannot take original route as electricity grid there is operating close to capacity

Environment Editor

The South Downs and New Forest national parks are potentially under threat from plans drawn up by a major Conservative donor to build a giant electricity pipeline from France to southern England.

Alexander Temerko, a former boss of the Russian oil giant Yukos, is developing an interconnector from the Flamenville nuclear power station in north-west France to the village of Lovedean, near Portsmouth. It would bring enough electricity to power 1.4 million households.

But the electricity grid in the South of England is already operating so close to capacity that Mr Temerko claims he has been told by the National Grid that he cannot plug in his pipeline at Lovedean substation.

National Grid has instead suggested an alternative path that would plug the pipeline into the electricity grid 40 miles to the north-west – in the village of Bramley, near Guildford in Surrey. This would mean extending an underground cable through the South Downs, some of the most beautiful countryside in England, in the face of likely opposition from local residents.

“National Grid said we cannot connect you to our southern network because we are totally fully booked. Capacity is full,” Mr Temerko told The Independent.

Alexander Temerko says he has been advised to extend an underground cable through the South Downs Alexander Temerko says he has been advised to extend an underground cable through the South Downs

“They say we have the capacity to connect you at Bramley. But if we can’t get a connection around Portsmouth and we need to move to Bramley I will probably appeal to Parliament to make this a national project like HS2 because it’s impossible to receive planning permission for a lot of this land.”

Mr Temerko, who was born in Ukraine but became a British citizen in 2011, is heading the consortium of private investors behind the proposal. It plans to have the pipeline from Flamenville power station – operated by the energy supplier EDF – operating by 2019.

Although its preferred route would involve running the cross-Channel cable east of the Isle of Wight to the UK, another option would be to take the cable west of the Isle of Wight. The pipeline would then have to run through the New Forest National Park to join the National Grid at Bramley.

Mr Temerko, who has donated close to £500,000 to the Tory party personally and through his company, Offshore Group Newcastle, said the fact that the National Grid is so close to capacity in the south indicated there may be problems keeping the lights on in the coming years.

“If we can create generation capacity but cannot connect it to the grid that’s a very, very dangerous indication,” he said. “I think people in the south need to seriously think about what will happen in the next five years because if they want to build new industry, shops and offices they are going to need electricity.”

National Grid was unable to respond to Mr Temerko’s comments because discussions about the interconnector are commercially sensitive until a formal application is made. Mr Temerko continues to negotiate with National Grid, ahead of a making formal application.

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