Pylons update

Last Thursday I attended a public meeting in Bildeston. It was packed and the feeling of the vast majority was that the cables should be put underground. Tim Yeo chaired the meeting and I wasn’t really sure at the end what his view was.

I am most concerned that the County Council takes the views of local councillors into account and I have asked how this is to be achieved. The issue is to be discussed at the February Cabinet meeting at Endeavour House.

I was most impressed at the research that had already been done by members of the audience, who were drawn from a wide swathe of South Suffolk and North Essex. A number of people have looked into the cost of undergrounding. Whilst National Grid are telling us that it costs 12 to 17 times as much as overhead cables, evidence from other European countries contradicts this.When I enquired about costs in Denmark I was told that it was 5 to 7 times more expensive, but this may be a lower voltage than the 400kv required for the new route(s). I also came across this article dated April 2010 about a similar controversy in Germany:

http://www.wire.de/cipp/md_wiretube/custom/pub/content,lang,2/oid,7766/ticket,g_u_e_s_t/~/Transmission_system_expansion_in_Germany_Underground_cable_or_overhead_lines.htmlThere’s an interesting quote from someone in the industry there “If you consider not only manufacturing and excavation costs, but also maintenance costs, electricity losses and down time costs plus the shortened approval times, extra high voltage underground cables are only two to five times more expensive than overhead lines, depending on local conditions”.I am very keen that we co-ordinate efforts across South Suffolk and North Essex. The Groton Alliance are setting up a website soon and I hope this will be a repository and rallying point. Another website with very useful information is here:

www.stourvalleyunderground.org.uk

Waste incineration views sought

The public have until October 9th to comment on the latest controversial proposals for waste disposal in  Suffolk.  The plans include one or two waste incinerators at Great Blakenham, with further sites identified at Sproughton, Eye and Stanton.  Whilst the cost of sending waste to landfill is increasing, the volume of waste is reducing, due in no small measure to the excellent levels of recycling in the County.  This year the County Council has saved £1.4m due to reduced quantities of waste going to landfill. Instead of investing this in schemes like kitchen waste collection, it is squirreling the money away to invest in incineration.  Research has shown that incineration:

  1. Burns scarce resources
  2. Generates huge amounts of carbon dioxide
  3. Produces dangerous emissions which accumulate in the body
  4. Encourages us to continue with a “throwaway” mentality instead of encouraging recycling.

More environmentally friendly options are available – for example using anaerobic digestion to break down waste and produce soil improver.  As already stated incineration is a health hazard as well as being unpopular and environmentally unfriendly. If you are opposed to the building of an incinerator, please back our petition to make the County Council reconsider this decision.  Our petition can be found at http://suffolkcclibdems.org.uk 

Pylon consultation

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

Delays to Copdock Mill roundabout “improvements” welcomed

Improvements to the Copdock Mill roundabout have been put on hold after costs of the scheme escalated. The scheme was being paid for by Hutchison Ports as part of the planning conditions for the extension of Felixstowe Port.  This will give the Highways Agency an opportunity to reassess the scheme and carry out surveys on traffic flows at this junction. I have been warning for some time that the proposed changes would cause long delays on the Northbound A12 approach to the roundabout as well as an increase in accidents. This is in direct contradiction to the objectives of the scheme. 

The current plans are to move Ipswich bound traffic into the outside lane on the A12 approach to Copdock Mill roundabout. At present Ipswich bound traffic travels in the left hand lane. As a regular user of this road I know that the left lane always moves faster, and it is the outside lane which tends to have the longer and slower moving queue. The proposed change will cause major tailbacks and a great deal of lane switching as people try to bypass the queues in the outside lane. I first raised the issue with the Highways Agency earlier this year and now both Suffolk Police and Suffolk County Council have backed my concerns about delays and increased risk of accidents.  

I am also worried that these “improvements” will cause more traffic to divert through local villages to avoid queues at Copdock Mill. Both Snoasis and Hutchison Ports have commitments to fund junction improvements at the Copdock Interchange. However because of the old-fashioned way in which the Highways Agency is dealing with this project only works required and funded by Hutchison are being promoted. The Department for Transport has promoted the concept of a Ringmaster to draw together funding from more than one developer in order to spread costs and solve more than one junction issue. If the Highways Agency adopted this approach they could improve both East and West bound traffic flows. Currently they are in danger of making a bad situation worse in terms of congestion as well as increasing the number of accidents.  The Copdock Mill scheme includes full signalisation of the roundabout, as well as an extended off slip onto the A14 from the A1214.

Improving A12 Safety from East Bergholt to the Essex border

In May this year the Highways Agency announced that they would carry out a safety study of the A12 South of Ipswich, following a spate of accidents between the East Bergholt Four Sisters junction and the Essex border.  This study was announced following a request from local Liberal Democrat councillor Sue Carpendale and myself.

 In response to the announcement that the Highways Agency were to begin a safety review along the A12 we launched our own survey of households in Stratford St. Mary, Holton St. Mary and Higham. More than 150 responses were received. Three questions were asked: 

  1. Would you support a 50mph limit on the A12 from Stratford St. Mary to East Bergholt
  2. Would you support a right turn ban at the B1068 Higham turning?
  3. Would you support a ban on Heavy Goods Vehicles overtaking on this section of road?

The main findings from the responses were: 

·      A clear majority were in favour of a 50mph limit.

·      The right turn ban at the B1068 Higham turning was supported but there were concerns about traffic routing through Stratford St. Mary on unsuitable roads

·      A majority would also support a ban on lorries overtaking on this stretch of A12

·      There was a great deal of anger that the County Council had routed A12 traffic through Stratford St. Mary early this year

·      There were worries about the high number of accidents on the A12.  

We were extremely pleased with the number of people who responded to our survey, this shows how concerned people are about the safety of the roads around these villages.  We passed these results onto the Highways agency and they have now contacted us to say that these views will be taken into account as part of their safety study. The safety of both local residents and drivers is paramount, and any moves to improve the state of this accident blackspot will be welcomed. We will do all we can to keep up the pressure on the Highways Agency so that the high number of injury accidents on this road are reduced.

Health update on heart attack care and Foundation Trust bid for Ipswich Hospital

I have attended quite a number of meetings over the last month relating to heart care and Ipswich Hospital. NHS Suffolk have promised that a leaflet will be sent to every household to explain the changes which will be taking place to care of “STEMI” heart attack patients ie those with a clot in the blood vessels around the heart. Over the summer they will be very carefully monitoring transit times by emergency ambulance from Suffolk to Papworth hospital in Cambridgeshire.

I attended the NHS Suffolk Board meeting in July and suggested that they look at the current emergency ambulance journey times from the Suffolk Coastal area to Ipswich hospital for the last 12 months. This should give an idea of delays either in the summer months, when there is tourist traffic, or over the recent harsh winter with icy roads. I also attended the consultation on Foundation Trust Status for Ipswich Hospital on August 11th. I have sent a letter to local papers to encourage people to support the hospital in its bid for Foundation Status. One of the risks of not getting this status is that it could be taken over by another hospital. One of the benefits is that it should have greater financial freedom and, hopefully, the ability to compete on a more even playing field for specialist services. More details are available at: http://www.ipswichhospital.net/foundationtrust/default.asp

Heart attack care in Suffolk

July 8th 2009

On Monday afternoon I attended the meeting where Professor Boyle, the Government’s “Heart Tsar”, was reporting back on the decision to transport “STEMI” heart attack patients to Papworth hospital in Cambridge or the Norfolk and Norwich hospital for “PPCI” treatment. Although the treatment increases survival rates, there has been a huge amount of concern about transport times, especially from the rural coastal area of Suffolk in winter.

 As a result of this public concern Professor Boyle has guaranteed that travel times will be studied over the next few months and that people can opt for the current service rather than be transported to Papworth or Norwich. They can’t be specific about how long this study will take as they need enough patients from the more rural areas to get a true picture. Currently there are 2-3 cases per week inEast Suffolk and of course they have no idea where they will be from.

“STEMI” heart attacks account for 25% of all heart attacks. The current treatment of clot busting drugs or thrombolysis, can be administered by paramedics prior to arrival at hospital. The new service “PPCI” involves the insertion of a stent and leads to improved survival rates for patients. However this treatment must be carried out at specialist centres where they have both the equipment and enough trained cardiologists to provide around the clock treatment. The recommendation is also that PPCI is carried out within 150 minutes of the heart attack. 

Ipswich hospital currently has neither the equipment nor the number of trained cardiologists (minimum of 6) to provide a round the clock service. This poses a number of questions including:

  1. Can this service be provided in the future at Ipswich hospital and how long would it take to establish?
  2. Does it diminish the current service for heart attack patients?
  3. Will this further deplete services at Ipswich Hospital?

On the first question it would take 3 to 4 years to establish a service. What they can establish, if there is the will to do so, is an elective angioplasty service in the interim. For this they would need a minimum of three cardiologists. They also need to carry out a minimum of 400 procedures each year to ensure professional expertise. A member of the audience suggested linking up with Colchester hospital to increase the number of patients treated at Ipswich.

On the second point they were careful to stress that heart attack care at Ipswich hospital would not be diminished, which goes some way to answering the third question.

 What this whole debate has thrown up is that people in East Suffolk are fearful of losing even more services from IpswichHospital.

 What happens next:

NHS Suffolk will host a number of open sessions for members of the public. I asked when these would be and where would they be publicised and they said that they should have the dates by the end of this week and that adverts will appear in the local press. Also every household will receive a leaflet explaining the changes.

They recognise that the consultation process was appalling. This has not been helped by the forum of health scrutiny chairs from across the region, which met in March, and decided that no consultation was needed on the proposed three centres of excellence – none of which, of course, are in Suffolk! We will no doubt discuss this further at the Health Scrutiny meeting on July 20th. We will also discuss the decision to move immediately to the PPCI model for West Suffolk hospital.

This article in the EADT gives further details:

http://www.eadt.co.uk/content/eadt/news/story.aspx?brand=EADOnline&category=News&tBrand=EADOnline&tCategory=xDefault&itemid=IPED06%20Jul%202009%2023%3A35%3A12%3A510