Yesterday I went to an information event which gave details of the four options for new or upgraded electricity pylon routes in South Suffolk. The routes cross some stunning countryside and there is already huge opposition and calls to underground the whole route. However National Grid say this is 12 to 17 times more expensive. By comparison the cost of overhead cables is £1.5m per kilometre. You would think in the 21st century that the expectation would be that cables would be put underground instead of replacing one ugly set of pylons for another. I’d be interested in your views (see survey on left of web page).
The event was for District and County councillors and there was a full house. The parishes most affected in my own Division are Hintlesham and Burstall. Chattisham, Sproughton and Copdock and Washbrook are also being consulted. More details, including the four alternative “corridors” are available on National Grid’s website: http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/electricity/MajorProjects/BramfordTwinstead This website will also be updated with all the public consultation events. The consultation will end in February.
So why does the network need upgrading? The probability of two new nuclear reactors at Sizewell, as well as gas fired plants at South Holland and Kings Lynn and the development of the offshore wind farm at Lowestoft (Greater Gabbard) mean that National Grid needs to not only provide a connection to these power stations, but also to ensure that there is enough capacity in the system. I feel a creeping cynicism that Corridors 1 or 2 are already the preferred options and that they will not bow to pressure to put the lines underground. So the current 132 Kv line will most likely be upgraded to 400 kv and the current 400 kv line will be rewired. For most of the route these would run in parallel. It would seem that the only section they would consider undergrounding at present is within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Under the 2008 planning legislation local authorities planning powers are completely bypassed for projects like these. The ultimate decision will be made by the Infrastructure Planning Commission. It will be this body that will make the decision on this and, incidentally, on whether Sizewell C gets the go ahead. This is because they are infrastructure projects of “national importance”. The Secretary of State can require a hearing where local residents and councils are able to put their views. Whether the Inspector at the hearing takes any notice we wait to see.
Background: Currently the winter peak demand for electricity is 60 Gigawatts. By 2020 it’s estimated that we will require a further 20 GW capacity. Sizewell C will generate 3.6 GW. Surprisingly the Greater Gabbard wind farm has the potential to generate even more than that, although of course its generation capacity will be wind dependent. Timetable:Oct 09 to Feb 2010 Consultation on options March 2010 to Spring 2011 Consultation on route alignment (with landowners) and environmental studies Summer 2011 Submit application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). At this stage the public and local authorities will have the opportunity to comment to the IPC and the Secretary of State can call a hearing.
Summer 2012 IPC decision 2012-16 Construction