Campaigners were split in their feelings but still worried and angry this afternoon after the preferred site was announced for a massive onshore windfarm substation.
ScottishPower Renewables said Grove Wood, Friston, was the “most appropriate location for development” for the connectring base required for its East Anglia TWO and East Anglia ONE North offshore windfarms in the North Sea off Suffolk.
The decision comes following an additional consultation period for the projects which also invited comments on an alternative site at Broom Covert, Sizewell, in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
There were opponents for both the Friston and Sizewell sites – and all were united in their anger over the devastation the 30-acre project will cause to the area.
ScottishPower Renewables said 600 responses were received, in relation to both sites, from members of the public, local interest groups and statutory stakeholders. All of the feedback had been carefully reviewed and considered.
The company said it took a balanced view towards site selection, using industry leading legal and technical advisors, who draw on national planning policy, in addition to the company’s project experience, notably in the successful development of East Anglia ONE and East Anglia THREE offshore wind projects.
Based on responses to the consultation and extensive advice, Grove Wood, Friston, was considered the best location for the electrical infrastructure to connect the proposed windfarms into the grid network.
David Walker, development director at ScottishPower Renewables, said: “We would like to thank everyone who responded to this latest phase of consultation. The feedback received has played an important part in helping us make this decision.
“After carefully reviewing all of the feedback, it was decided that the Grove Wood, Friston, site will remain as the preferred location for the substations.
“We are now looking at the key matters raised in relation to the Grove Wood site and we are considering how these influence our plans going forward. In early 2019 we will be launching Phase 4 of our consultation and we encourage as many people as possible to continue engaging with us on the next stage of our plans.”
Campaign group Substation Action/Save East Suffolk (SASES) was left very disappointed and frustrated at the decision.
Spokesman Michael Mahony said: The whole consultation has been flawed from the outset and I think they care little about the needs or the impact on the local community. This plan will still effect the AONB at Thorpeness and the 50m wide by six-mile long trench to bring the cables from the sea to the site will have a massive impact on the community and the economy. This whole issue is a massive failure of planning.”
The Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership said it was pleased the preferred option for the location of the substation would be located outside the nationally designated landscape.
However, the partnership recognised that ScottishPower Renewables’ decision will have a “significant and visible impact” on visitors and residents at Friston. The AONB partnership urged all those involved in the generation and transmission of electricity on and near the Suffolk coast to work together to seek solutions to avoid any negative impacts on this naturally beautiful coastline.
David Wood, chairman of the AONB Partnership, said: “We welcome ScottishPower Renewables decision to select a site for its proposed substations outside the nationally designated AONB. We consider this to be in line with national policy to conserve and enhance some of England’s outstanding landscapes.
“The AONB Partnership consider that the proposed cable routes and offshore turbines have the potential to damage the nationally designated landscape. The AONB staff team will work with ScottishPower Renewables in an attempt to avoid, minimise and compensate for the damage these works will cause to one of the country’s finest landscapes.”
The Save Our Sandlings group said: “We are pleased to hear that the site near Leiston has not been chosen, but our thoughts are with the people of Friston.
“However, Save Our Sandlings will continue to campaign against the landfall at Thorpeness, and associated cable trenches through the AONB.
“As we know interconnectors from Europe and further planned windfarms will need onshore sites, we will also be lobbying government to create central hubs on brownfield sites for current and future developments. Without an alternative connection to the National Grid, our Heritage Coast will continue to be threatened by future offshore developments.
Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council have both responded with a great deal of frustration.
Both authorities had previously jointly stated that selecting one of the two proposed substation sites at Grove Wood or Broom Covert, was like choosing the lesser of two evils.
They feel that local needs are still being ignored and maintain their position that more should be done to co-ordinate these projects to minimise the impact on the local communities. Both authorities will continue working together, to express concerns to Scottish Power Renewables directly and through the next round of public consultations.
Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal District Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development, said: “We have welcomed the ongoing interaction and consultation with Scottish Power Renewables during their pre-application process. However, we are concerned with their preference to site the onshore infrastructure at Grove Wood, Friston, as we consider this location to have significant adverse impacts on the landscape, heritage assets and the local community.
“We will continue discussions with SPR in advance of their next round of public consultation in seeking to maximise mitigation opportunities for this difficult site.”
Richard Rout, cabinet member for environment and public protection at Suffolk County Council, said: “We now find ourselves in a really difficult position. We have a responsibility to safeguard our fragile, unique environment in Suffolk but we also do understand that there is a desire for new jobs and economic development as part of a vibrant local and national economy. We have clear aspirations for Suffolk to become the Greenest County. These are still at the forefront of our minds and the potential impacts of such development are not particularly in keeping with our favoured approach.
“We remain gravely concerned that Friston is the wrong place for such development. The leaders of Suffolk Coastal, Waveney Districts and Suffolk County have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy asking that the Government takes a more strategic view in planning how we manage energy infrastructure in the future so that issues such as this are dealt with properly.
“Although we are still opposed to the Friston site, we don’t have the authority to turn down the planning of these major infrastructure projects. So, we will do what we can to work with Scottish Power Renewables to find the maximum mitigation possible to ensure their project causes the least impact in the event that it is accepted by the Secretary of State in due course.”
“The sad outcome of all of this is that the Friston and Leiston / Sizewell communities have been set against each other defending themselves from this development.”
The proposed East Anglia TWO and East Anglia ONE North offshore windfarms have the potential to power 1.5 million homes with clean energy.
The two projects, East Anglia TWO and East Anglia ONE North with a capacity of 900MW and 800MW respectively, follow on from the 714MW East Anglia ONE project, currently in construction and the 1,200 MW East Anglia THREE scheme, which received planning consent last year.
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