Local MPs and campaigners say plans to run a new power line, carried by pylons across East Anglia to London, should be ditched in favour of undersea cabling.
The government’s plan is to generate 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030 – that’s enough to power every home in the country. East Anglia already has some of the largest offshore wind farms in the world and several more have been given the green light.
The challenge will be bringing the power in from offshore and connecting it to the national grid. East Anglia’s current cable network is sufficient for regional needs, but as more of these windfarms come online, the links to the rest of the grid need to be much stronger.
New East Anglia transmission line
We have already written about plans to cut 120 miles of motorway-wide trenches for cables to bring power from the coast to substations in Norfolk. Now National Grid are proposing to build a completely new transmission line which will take the power from those substations the 180 km to join the grid at Tilbury. However, these cables won’t be buried, but will run on old-fashioned, 50m-tall ‘lattice framework’ pylons that will carry electricity to London.
The route has been plotted and is shown in a leaflet mailed to all those affected. The map shows a ‘purple swathe’ that runs south from Norwich in what is now beautiful, unspoilt countryside, before turning southwest near Colchester. In some areas, pylons pass very close to people’s homes. As well as being a blight, the project will result in the loss of innumerable trees along the route.
Residents are organising
There has already been a substantial push-back to the plans by residents across the region. Those campaigning against the plan argue that sea cables deliver much of our offshore power. They point out these are far less damaging and should be given serious consideration.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, has been leading a group of East Anglia MPs whose constituencies will be affected by the pylons. The group is called OffSET (the Off-Shore Electricity Grid Task Force). Their objective is to persuade the Government to adopt a strategic approach to electricity transmission grid-planning in the East of England. They want to see an offshore ‘ring main’ replace the pylon scheme that could take the generated electricity around the coast and up the Thames Estuary. OffSET are prepared to go to the High Court if necessary.
Plans are a ‘non-starter’
Sir Bernard said,
“What we cannot have is cheap and cheerful patchwork solutions. The current plans are a non-starter. It’s a no-brainer, there should be no new overhead transmission cables through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or any area that is earmarked to be included in the AONB.
“One alternative is ‘undergrounding’ but this pushes up the cost very substantially and makes the offshore ring much more viable as a long-term proposal. I look forward to working with local residents to have their voices heard.”
‘East Anglia GREEN’
National Grid is calling the project ‘East Anglia GREEN’ and has started a consultation which will run until 16 June. Liam Walker, project director for East Anglia GREEN, said: “This reinforcement between Norwich and Tilbury is essential to carry more clean energy to homes and businesses across the UK, and to help the country reach net zero by 2050. We hope local residents will be able to join us and hear more about what we are proposing and give us their feedback on our plans.”
Consultation ‘not fit for purpose’
Local organiser Rosie Pearson believes the consultation is not fit for purpose. She points out that it presents a ‘preferred option’, without any opportunities presented to the public to understand the costs and environmental impact of other options. “Those alternatives,” she says, “include: burying the cable along additional stretches – not just in the AONB – laying the cables on the seabed, or using the more modern ‘T pylons’. Their plan slices through the heart of East Anglia. Just because the energy being transported is green, doesn’t give National Grid the excuse to trash the countryside and call its pylons green.”
Rosie has started a Facebook page that already has over 1,700 members, and over 5,000 people have signed a petition. She also organised an inaugural Zoom last week called ‘People vs Pylons’ with Sir Bernard as a guest speaker. So many wanted to join the Zoom that she had to turn people away.
Not all residents are aware of the plans
“It’s very worrying,” Rosie says, “that we are hearing numerous reports from all along the 180km route that people within the purple swathe are unaware of the proposal until notified by campaigners/leafleters.”
One comment on the Facebook page said, “It appears only those within the ‘purple swathe’ have received letters. To make it a fair consultation, everyone within visual range should also be consulted. I’ve checked, and 50m pylons are visible for at least 6km (possibly more).”
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