Wednesday, May 29, 2024

New Norwich to Tilbury pylon scheme proposals launched

NEW proposals have revealed that the impact on the Norfolk countryside of a controversial pylon scheme will be significantly worse than in Suffolk reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

Updated plans for the 114 mile power line show that in Norfolk less than one mile of it will be placed underground, compared to four miles in the neighbouring county. This represents just 5pc of its length through Norfolk, compared with 14pc in Suffolk.

The news has angered Norfolk campaigners, with Conservative MP Richard Bacon saying: “National Grid must think that we’re stupid.”

The company wants to build a power line from the outskirts of Norwich to the Thames estuary to allow electricity generated by North Sea wind farms to be used elsewhere in the country.

It says the scheme is a vital part of the UK’s net zero ambitions and that using pylons rather than burying the cable underground will reduce the overall cost for energy bill payers.

However, communities in south Norfolk – and elsewhere along the line – are resisting the proposals, which they argue will harm the countryside, and are calling for more of the route to run underground or for it to be moved off the coast, to run along the seabed.

In response, National Grid has agreed to bury more of the route – but not enough to satisfy campaigners.

The grid launched its third and final public consultation for the line earlier this month, with its plans showing more of the line running underground.

The only buried stretch in Norfolk is close to Diss, where it will travel through Roydon and beneath the River Waveney.

By contrast, in Suffolk, four miles will be buried. Most of these are in Dedham Vale, near the Essex border, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty associated with the landscape paintings of John Constable.

Simon Pepper, senior project manager for National Grid, said: “Undergrounding does cost a lot more money and we’re required to protect consumers as much as we can. Every penny we spend appears on bills.”

Mr Pepper said it would be up to 10 times as expensive to put the entire line underground.

Running the line offshore would also be significantly more expensive and the line would have less capacity, National Grid claims.

Communities will be able to see how the design of the project has changed at public information events in Norfolk next month. 

Mr Pepper said: “We’re still open-minded to make changes where we can and want to understand people’s concerns. 

“We have made a lot of alterations as a direct consequence of listening to local communities. This new consultation will inform more thinking and help us to refine our proposals.”

Campaigners have spoken of their anger at the new offer and say they will “continue to fight” against National Grid. 

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, said the new proposals were not “sensible or serious”.

He added: “People have a right to be wholly disappointed and frustrated with this. National Grid must think that we’re stupid. 

“Their performance has not impressed me so far, and I hope that this improves. Either the entire route needs to be underground, or we need to take it offshore.”

Rosie Pearson, from the campaign group Pylons East Anglia, said: “They’re telling us to be grateful but they haven’t listened to the people at all. They’ve ignored what we’ve been saying since the beginning.

“The people of Norfolk are being really badly treated, it’s affecting people’s mental health. They will be really upset when they see where the pylons will be in relation to their homes and their farms, it’s a complete joke.”

he scheme has received the support of shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who said a future Labour government would want to press ahead with the line in the face of its critics.

She said it was “time to get on with it”, adding: “There is a big opportunity for the UK to become the energy leaders of the future and we need to seize that.

“We’ve got to crack on and build the energy infrastructure to heat our homes and get people’s bills down. Renewable energy is the cheapest energy form.”

However, the scheme has received opposition from Norfolk County Council, South Norfolk Council and the Tory candidate for South Norfolk, Poppy Simister-Thomas. 

National Grid intends to submit its planning application next year, but a decision on the scheme will not be made by the government until 2026. 

The public consultations in Norfolk will be held in Ashwellthorpe on May 9, Tibenham on May 10 and Diss on May 15.

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