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A 30-acre substation would be “extremely challenging” to develop in a Suffolk beauty spot without harming the protected landscape, a leaked report said.
Natural England said ScottishPower renewables’(SPR) plans for the Broom Covert site near Leiston, threatened to “overwhelm” the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB and “squeeze out” the landscape’s remaining traditional character.
SPR included the site in its latest consultation for the East Anglia TWO wind farm project off the Suffolk coast. The substation would comprise 21-metre tall buildings and transformers to transfer power generated by the wind farm onto the National Grid.
Initial plans for a substation near Friston had been criticised by Suffolk councils, due to its rural setting. Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Coastal District Council and Waveney District Council urged SPR to consider the viability of all sites – including the AONB – saying protected status should not rule it out.
SPR then launched an extra consultation stage, which finished on November 12.
The councils’ official response favoured the Broom Covert site as the “lesser of two evils”.
Natural England also responded but had refused requests by this newspaper to make the document public, saying it was not a statutory consultation.
However a leaked copy of the response highlighted concerns with the AONB proposal and its effect on neighbouring “sites of special scientific interest” .
Natural England said policy was for no major development in AONBs unless “exceptional circumstances” can be shown.
In the case of Broom Covert, Natural England said “no construction or operational imperatives” had been presented, and therefore “exceptional circumstances have not been demonstrated”. It said a feasible alternative had been considered in earlier consultation stages.
The response also said that when considered in combination with other nearby developments, including Sizewell power station and the Greater Gabbard and Galloper substations, the plans threatened to “overwhelm this part of the AONB” and “sever” the landscape in two.
The Save Our Sandlings campaign group, which has been fighting the plans, welcomed Natural England’s response, which members said was “excellent and robust”.
A spokesman for SPR said: “We have received the feedback from Natural England, as well as responses from a wide range of other stakeholders, statutory bodies and members of the public.
“We extended the latest phase of consultation by a further two weeks to allow additional time for people to respond and we are now collating the responses.
“All feedback will be fully considered in the assessment and site selection process, and confirmation of a substation site which balances all aspects will be announced before the end of the year.”
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