The Managing Director of Sark Electricity yesterday claimed Sark’s government – Chief Pleas – advised him that a proposal to replace an old cable supplying Little Sark grants “the authorities the ammunition to prepare to close [SEL] down”.
SEL has given Chief Pleas until 7 July to grant them permission to install a new underground cable across La Coupee. If that is not realised, the utility has indicated it will disconnect the smaller island from the grid due to safety concerns.
Managing Director Alan Witney-Price continues to maintain that he requires government approval to replace the island’s ageing and increasingly unsafe electricity network, something not forthcoming from Chief Pleas.
He also rejects claims that SEL are free to replace the cables without Chief Pleas’ permission: “Chief Pleas attacks me for operating unsafe equipment but simultaneously refuses to provide the legal means to replace it.
“This threat from Sarks government is clear. Withdraw my application to replace this ageing cable and live with it as it is, accepting the risk as Director and owner of the company, or watch my company be seized from under me.”
Mr Witney-Price argues that Chief Pleas refusal to engage with his company and the issues facing the grid is an attempt by the government to devalue the utility. The nationalisation of SEL remains a stated policy of Chief Pleas.
Express has been told by Chief Pleas that a statement on the current situation is forthcoming.
Pictured: SEL has failed to obtain the necessary permissions to replace cabling from Chief Pleas over the last few years.
Mr Witney-Price continued: “If I installed a shed on Sark without permission, the authorities would be down on me like a tonne of bricks. I cannot simply close La Coupee and dig it up to lay a new cable without legitimate permissions from the authorities.
“Anyone peddling that nonsense has lost connection with reality. If Chief Pleas wants to confirm for me that I have such a blanket authority to replace and maintain cables and equipment, then they know my address and I would be delighted to receive it. No permissions will ever be sought by me again.”
Mr Witney-Price accepts that he and the authorities hold different views but labelled the perception that the government is blame-free in the situation as “laughable”.
He also suggested that Chief Pleas have allowed Sark’s infrastructure to deteriorate “and the Coupee is just one component of that”.
“SEL is not responsible for the individual catastrophe’s that are education, shipping, energy, infrastructure, and tourism. All roads lead to one culprit but that is not the power station,” he concluded.
An electricity price subsidy, paid for personally each month by Mr Witney-Price, is also due to expire on 1 July.
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