Pylons – the saga continues

My group is currently preparing our response to National Grid. I was very disappointed last week that the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council continued with their backing of the proposed route through the Dedham Vale AONB.

The public meeting with National Grid on Monday 15th Feb at Hintlesham Community Hall was packed. The most depressing part of the evening was hearing National Grid saying over and over that they had to consider cost first. They would therefore give no commitment to underground the wires through the AONB if Corridor 2 is their chosen route.

Better news is that the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) have advised National Grid that the company has provided insufficient information on the alternatives to pylons in Somerset. On their website they say that National Grid has failed to explain to local communities the environmental, cost and technical implications of undergrounding the line and/or the undersea route. the IPC also say “The approach (being taken by National Grid) could be seen as predetermining the choice of routes and cloud the approach to all subsequent consultation”.

The Dedham Vale Society has also put in a very robust response to National Grid:

http://www.dedhamvalestourvalley.org/uploads/Dedham%20Vale%20AONB%20and%20Stour%20Valley%20Partnership%20Response%20to%20National%20Grid%20proposals.pdf

Babergh pylon decision

First I just want to clear up one issue. I am not in favour of building pylons on any of the proposed routes in the beautiful South Suffolk countryside, even though one of my parishes (Burstall) has opted for Corridor 4. Unfortunately Suffolk County Council has identified Corridor 2b as the “least worst” route in terms of environmental damage and has suggested that there be undergrounding in the most sensitive areas, like the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley. There is a major flaw in this argument. A rough calculation shows that this mixture of over and underground on Corridor 2 would cost National Grid around three times more than overhead on Corridor 4. National Grid’s argument has been that they need to choose the cheapest option. The logical conclusion is that National Grid say that 2b is too expensive and go for Corridor 4 which they view as being the least constrained. Which is absolutely not what I want to happen – and nor do the parishes along Corridors 3 and 4. It has been my view that we should all stand together and argue for alternative options including underground and undersea. Only by showing strength will we get National Grid to reconsider. 

This morning Babergh District Council met to discuss their position on National Grid’s proposals. Representatives of the parishes were allowed to speak on behalf of each of the corridors as well as on an undergrounding option. Then local councillors spoke, before members of the Strategy committee debated the issue. It was a long debate and some progress was made, in that Corridor 2 was removed from the category of being the “least worst” option. Nigel Bennett made the very valid point that agreeing Corridor 2 would be agreeing to open up South Suffolk as a transmission route for the future and Martyn Booth eloquently argued that all options should be rejected. Richard Kemp said that in this high tech age overhead pylons were a “horse and cart solution”. Michael Miller put forward some amended wording and in the end a compromise was reached, which effectively removes Corridor 2 as a preferred option whilst strongly arguing against the other three corridors.

In the end National Grid have us all over a barrel. They have put forward proposals which are not acceptable and are firmly rooted in the last century. What is more they will not provide enough capacity for Wave 3 offshore wind.

On the evening of Monday 15th I am chairing a debate at Hintlesham Community Hall. I hope we can have a constructive discussion with National Grid. On Thursday 18th we debate the issue again at Suffolk County Council after my group requested it be considered again.

Tories opt for pylon route through AONB

It is hard to believe that Suffolk County Council Conservatives are backing another row of pylons through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whilst making noises about undergrounding and undersea options they are failing to stand up for the Suffolk countryside. Surely the landscapes captured by Constable and Gainsborough deserve better protection than this?

They say in their recommendations that “Corridor 2b would cause the lease environmental damage” but this is the very route that goes through the AONB and there can be no guarantee that National Grid will consider undergrounding either the AONB section or the very sensitive and picturesque Stour Valley section. Of course we don’t want pylons along any of the corridors but to imply that Corridor 2b is the least damaging route is ludicrous. We have now asked that the matter be considered again at the County Council meeting on Feb 18th.

Some points to consider:

  1. Somerset County Council has not chosen either of the two corridors proposed by National Grid. See www.pylonthepressure.co.uk for information on the Somerset anti-pylon campaign.
  2. The proposed new 400kv pylon route will not be needed until the end of this decade as neither the new nuclear reactors at Sizewell or Phase 2 of the Greater Gabbard offshore windfarm will come on stream until then. This gives time to consider other options like a high voltage DC undersea supergrid as described on the Stour Valley Underground website www.stourvalleyunderground.org.uk/.
  3. When the recently announced Wave 3 offshore windfarms are built there will not be enough capacity to carry the power through the proposed new pylon route. So the current proposals are only a short term solution.
  4. Four of the five campaign groups/countryside organisations want undergrounding on any chosen corridor. These are the Dedham Vale Society, Colne-Stour Countryside Association, Stour Valley Underground and Bury not Blight, who presented a petition of more than 300 signatures to Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet meeting yesterday.
  5. Braintree District Council has already rejected all four overhead options and asked for undergrounding instead. What a pity Suffolk County Council are not inclined to do the same. It is time to stand up and be counted on this issue! Babergh District Council consider this matter at their meeting on February 11th.

Bramford to Twinstead Pylon consultation latest

First of all if you support undegrounding of electricity cables instead of pylons please sign the No. 10 petition: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Undergrounding/

Also I have changed my survey question (on the left) so please respond if you have a view.

I attended two meetings last week which debated pylon routes. Burstall Parish Council on Monday opted unanimously for Corridor 4, having listened first to the views of their residents. They are very much aware that the Groton Pylon Alliance have opted for Corridor 2 and clearly want to defend themselves.

My view remains that I would only accept undergrounding or an undersea route but I also have a duty to support my constituents. I am completely unaffected personally by these routes as I live miles away but I care passionately about the people I represent.

On Thursday I attended the Groton Pylon Alliance meeting. It was a packed meeting and most people had to stand all evening as there were very few chairs. During the presentation the GPA gave a number of reasons for rejecting Corridors 3 and 4, including highly valued landscapes, “intervisibility” of the existing with the new, biodiversity and health. All of these apply equally to the other Corridor options, of course. Their view is that Corridor 2 is the “least worst” solution. I absolutely disagree with this. Corridor 2 crosses the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and affects far more people.

I stated that I had hoped we could provide a united front and reject all four corridors with the request that National Grid consider either an underground or undersea route. This view is also held by the Dedham Vale Society and the Stour Valley Underground campaign group. Since the announcement of more offshore wind farms in the North Sea, an undersea grid must surely become a more viable option? I know that a great deal of work is going into costings both of the tunnel approach to undergrounding and the costs of an undersea grid. It appears that disappointingly our MP is supporting the views of the Groton Pylon Alliance.

More information on the following websites:

http://www.stourvalleyunderground.org.uk/

http://www.onesuffolk.co.uk/PolsteadPC/The+No+Pylon+Page.htm

http://www.hintlesham-chattisham.com/

Update on pylon consultation

I have been asked to chair a meeting at Hintlesham Community Hall on February 15th. This will provide an opportunity for local people to question National Grid. It is clear that none of the communities affected by the proposed new 400kv pylon routes in South Suffolk are in favour of pylons passing through their area. Corridors 3 and 4 would have an unacceptable impact on unspoilt landscapeCorridors 1 and 2 also cross very sensitive landscape areas and have the greatest population close to their routes.  They too would cause a dramatic loss of visual amenity. People are also worried about the financial devaluation and impact on the saleability of their homes. 

What is needed is some radical thinking and a policy change at national government levelGiven that many future generators of electricity will be either offshore, in the case of wind farms, or on the coast, in the case of nuclear generation, undersea cables would be a good solution. It beggars belief that National Grid are sticking to unsightly pylons. What price do we put on the protection of our beautiful Suffolk landscape from further blight? 

If an overland route is essential then underground cables would be far less obtrusive.  I find it hard to believe the figures being quoted by National Grid for this solution. Why does it cost between 12 and 17 times more than pylons, when other countries can build at 2 to 5 times the cost?

Bramford to Twinstead pylons route

Yesterday I went to Hintlesham Community Hall for the exhibition of proposals for the four possible corridors. It was well attended. Local people had petition forms outside, calling for the electricity cables to be put underground. They only had a few refusals.

Today I went on a tour of the South Suffolk area with other County Councillors to look at the landscape issues for all the possible routes. What stands out most of all is how beautiful the countryside is. The current 400kv and 175kv pylons are a real scar on the landscape. Just because they have been there for forty odd years doesn’t make their appearance any more acceptable. The 400kv pylons are around 50 metres high and the 175 kv are 26.5 metres. The idea that there could be two parallel lines of 50 metre high pylons in such lovely countryside does not bear thinking about.

I cannot agree with Tim Yeo when he says:

“I am delighted that the main campaigners have now agreed on a single objective – opting for Option 2 as long as this opportunity is also used to bury underground all the cables, both existing and proposed. This is a sensible idea which I also strongly support.

Even if it eventually proves impossible to underground the cables along the whole of corridor 2 it is absolutely essential that cables in all the sensitive areas are undergrounded.”

This is not an acceptable position for those in corridor 2 as it leaves the door open for National Grid to only put cables underground in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is a cop out. All campaigners must get behind the idea that any route must not impact on the stunning countryside in South Suffolk.

I am very interested in the proposal for undergrounding being put forward by the Stour Valley Underground group (http://www.stourvalleyunderground.org.uk/). There is also a link to the Downing Street petition on the front page of their site. They are suggesting using concrete tunnels for the cables which would be much cheaper and would not require the wide exclusion zone which National Grid suggest.

Another alternative, of course, is to use high voltage DC cables around the coastline under the sea. It makes sense if we assume that the number of offshore wind farms is likely to increase around the UK and both the Labour and Conservative parties are proposing the expansion of nuclear reactors, which are on the coast. There is no loss of landscape and power can be directed easily to where it is required in the South East. I am increasingly taken with this solution.

Incinerator site update

The County Council has now announced that all but one of the sites have been put forward as possibilities for waste treatment plants in the county.

As it stands, the potential sites for waste treatment plants will be;

  • Masons Quarry – Great Blakenham
  • Highways Depot – Great Blakenham (already selected as the site for the currently in tender, Energy from Waste Incinerator)
  • The former Sugar Refinery – Sproughton
  • Eye Airfield Industrial Estate – Eye/Brome

According to the Council, the Hepworth/Stanton site attracted the highest level of public opposition (reaching near 600 objections), and has therefore been removed from the proposals. The issue will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 10th November and at the County Council meeting on December 11th.

The Liberal Democrats at the County Council remain opposed to the building of an Incinerator.

Next stages will be

·         Publication and consultation of the Submission Waste Core strategy in January 2010 and submission to the Planning Inspectorate in February 2010.

·         A Public Hearing during May/June 2010.

·         Publication of the Inspector’s Report to Suffolk County Council in October 2010.

·         Adoption of the Waste Core Strategy as planning policy by Suffolk County Council in December 2010.