Second SVU Public Meeting


These are the minutes of the Second SVU Public Meeting

held on 

Friday 27th November at 7:30


Twinstead Church



The Church was full and David Tooth welcomed everyone to the meeting and said he hoped this second public meeting would be informative and constructive. He introduced the three speakers – David Holland, Robert Erith and Richard Barnes. He said he was humbled by the amount of work both David and Richard had done whilst holding down full time jobs. He also said that although Twinstead is in Essex, we must approach the National Grid (NG) proposals as a cross-border concern. There would be an open discussion after the talks.

David Holland said he was here for the love of the beautiful valley landscapes; we are very privileged and it is our duty to preserve and enhance this. 

He went on to consider the impact of each of N G‘s proposed powerline route corridors. Each corridor has its own rational and problems. The NG questionnaire provided at the consultation events asks for people to indicate their preferred route. He emphasised that we don’t have to select a corridor; that you could say “I want the cables to go in tunnels under valley” or “ around the cast, under the sea”. 

Corridor 4 is the most northerly corridor; the N G consultants consider it to have the least environmental impact. It is the longest route, passing through lovely villages and would end up coming over the brow of the hill through a nature reserve to the Twinstead T. 

Corridor 3 is the NG consultants’ most direct route from Bramford to Twinstead, passing through Hadleigh, Groton, Boxford etc to Twinstead – all heritage sites in unspoilt countryside. He had attended the Groton Pylon Alliance (GPA) meeting on 23rd November where over 200 people attended. Their (GPA’s) aim is to press for either corridor 2 and once the route is established they will then press for the undergrounding of the cables. 

Of the two southerly routes, Corridor 1 would introduce another line of pylons through the ANOB. 

Corridor 2 would involve replacing the existing 132kV pylon line with larger, 46.5m, 400kv pylons. A sub station or grid supply point (GSP) would also be required to link the 400kV line to the 132 kv line as they would need to re-energise it between Twinstead and Hedingham or further west. The main problem with the route – it runs through ANOB and a large area designated to become ANOB. The status of AONB may be enough to force power lines to run underground in that area.

5 km underground cabling (to avoid ANOB) would cost approx £20m/km

22 km remaining, over ground cost approx £2m/km

Sub-station total cost approx £20m

So the total cost for a corridor 2 solution might well be £165m

Compared with the cost of over ground pylons along corridor 4, perhaps £70m the total cost for C2 is almost an additional £100m.

SVU have argued from the start that the entire route should be under ground, this being in agreement with the position of GPA. SVU have considered a partial under ground solution from Polstead Heath , through the ANOB to the Twinstead T. SVU have not argued for this because the outcome for the Hintlesham area would be worse.

David also stated that SVU consider it to be totally unconscionable to blight unspoiled landscape with pylons and so are in full agreement with GPA on this issue.

With respect to the prospect of a substation as part of a corridor 2 solution, this may be as far west as Little London. NG want the site within 250m of a main road which suggests to us a site between two areas of woodland on the A131 near the Wickham St Paul road. Rushley Green, another possible site, was discounted because of poor access. But keen to show the audience that we must not be complacent and assume any site is safe, he had spoken to an insurance expert who advised that access was entirely possible. If situated at Rushley Green, the 132Kv power line from Twinstead Tee to Rushley green could come down, a great advantage for Wickham St Paul. He said that we are trying to defend, restore and protect the landscape; if it was tunnelled all the way, including the 132 kv line, there would be no power lines and no need for a sub-station. The proposed sub-station would be 150x150m; with both a 400 and a 132 Kv pylon and all linking pylons seen way over the tree tops. It would also feature a house size building and 2 x 160 ton transformers, the latter would last about 40 years, it is for these they need sound road way to access the site. As well as the visual impact, sub-stations hum at 100 hertz. This low frequency sound travels in all directions and even round corners If it were sited near one of our communities, we would have to push for sound deadening. Generally, the information NG provides gives a lower impact story than what we would have to live with if corridore 2 was chosen. This point was illustrated with independently taken slides and compared with National Grid’s from the consultation displays.

As an insurance measure for the nation, under grounding makes sense. This is destined to be a primary power route for the City of London where 10% of the gross national profit is made. So much power is scheduled to be passing through this area, if the power is cut off, billions would be lost. With global warming, extreme weather events are much more likely. The energy supply system can only withstand the failure of 2 circuits of 400kV lines, and NG are proposing to place 4 here so there is real potential for major economic impact if the environment or malevolent forces brought down the proposed pylons. The lines would be safer under ground and would in total cost less than the potential loss to GDP of just a one days power cut in the City.

David tooth then introduced Robert Erith, President of the Dedham Vale & Stour Valley (DVSVP) Partnership and on the ANOB committee. Robert Erith told the meeting that the DVSVP was founded 71 years ago to try and protect Constable country which it does well. In 1970 the ANOB was founded because councils wanted to build a new town in the East Bergholt/Flatford area. They have always believed that the ANOB should be extended along the Stour Valley up to Sudbury but at that time the Countyside Association said no. The DVSVP is funded by local government authority and Natural England. The project looks after the whole valley up to the source of the Stour near Stoke-By-Clare. He chairs the twice yearly meetings with Natural England, Suffolk and Essex CO Councils, and Babergh, St Edmundsbury, Colchester and Braintree District Councils. At their last meeting they posted a statement of intent to natural England to extend the AONB to the west of Sudbury. This is important because the AONB have quite a lot of statutary protection in planning terms. Even a note of declaration of intent is important. Unfortunately, the status of the area won’t alter soon. Dr Helen Philips, Chief Executive of Natural England, has said that since our AONB is the 5th smallest in the country, it would be better if it were extended and has said she would make a case in our favour. It is important to make a case to demonstrate an area is worthy of protection, will be hard because of the blight of ugly telegraph poles etc. He said we have got to work on the positive aspects ie Constable painted Dawes (Lamarsh) Hall. His grandfather was a miller in Sudbury. Gainsborough also painted along the river valley. Robert said that we have got to take this 1 in 3 or 4 generation chance of putting both the existing as well as new lines underground. We need to ensure that local and district councils and national representatives along with NG hear from as many people as possible.

Communications can be email or hand written. Cash flow is a big frustration for NG; cash flow from energy should fund this project. NG are accountable to Ofgen.

The final decision re this project will rest with the new quango – IPC- which has only just been formed and comes into being in March 2010, to speed up planning decisions such as NG’s proposal. Sir Michael Pitt is the IPC chairman. Before Robert Erith finished speaking he re-emphasised the need for as many people as possible to write.

David Tooth said the message is that we have all got to be active. He aid that David Holland would be putting all the contact addresses on the SVU web site. The new quango is scary. It came into being to fast track the 3rd Heathrow runway. Our consultation is quite short, if NG tick all their boxes, we will get the pylons. He then introduced Richard Barnes who had carried out a lot of research on a broader scale.

Richard said his involvement with SVU had started with his love of the countryside and how the valley would be spoilt by pylons. Although national power supply is a priority, planning of new lines done without sufficient thought, we will have to live with the legacy. Electricity can’t be stored so it is generated to meet demand and is shunted round a grid system. He has been looking for a 21st century solution to the proposed pylon problem.

He started by showing slides of a NG 400 Kv pylon, insulators and conductors (power lines). The pylon system consists of one 400 Kv circuit on each side with an earth wire running along the top. Should the current plans go ahead, the conductors will be replaced , each new line will comprise of 3 cables and will be able to carry considerably more power. The proposed power potential of this route would be enormous, adequate to supply all the needs of Denmark. Historically more power has and is generated in the north and has to be brought southward, mostly to feed London. The reason for strengthening the Bramford/Twinstead link results from the proposed massive increase in nuclear power production from sizewell, two gas-fired power stations and massive wind farms in the North Sea. The power from the wind farms will be transferred either to Norwich or Sizewell, most likely the latter. Taking the power via an under-sea cable straight to Tilbury or Bradwell was considered but thought too expensive.

Richard produced a slide showing 2 sets of 400 Kv pylons running in parallel, what we would experience should NG go ahead. He then showed a slide of 400 Kv cabling used to transmit electricity under ground. For this project, 6 circuits are required; each cable is 6 inches wide and they come on 1 km rolls. Currently, the longest alternating current (AC) under ground cable – 40 km - is in Japan. The under ground cabling currently being laid in London will be longer. Direct current (DC) cables tend to be used for longer routes but, as technology improves, this is changing. 

The cables have fibre-optic sensors incorporated, so, if a cable system is used this will lead to a Smart Grid which allows monitoring and control over power distribution. This system would also allow easy connection for local power generation. In the USA, President Obama is injecting billions of dollars into establishing a Smart Grid. The Conservatives are also planning on investing in a Smart Grid although their local MPs seem unaware of these proposals.

There are 3 possible methods for placing power cables under ground. They can be directly buried; this method would involve a vast area of countryside to be ripped up, a width of about 80m of land is required. The second process is cut and cover. The ground is disturbed during the laying of the cables but once the soil has been replaced, the land can be reused. SVU don’t support either of these methods.

SVU propose that NG should tunnel underground using the readily available specialist equipment as they are currently doing in London. This method causes far less disturbance; the main problem is getting rid of the earth etc which is removed during the process. These tunnels would result in better access to the cables and new circuits can be added at a later date. NG still maintain that this approach would cost 12 –17 x more than overhead pylons. Richard tried contacting a company used by NG but didn’t get a response. On trying to contact a second company Richard received an e mail from Jim Street, NG Project Leader saying that Richard must ask him for this information and that this is obviously a commercially sensitive issue. Richard had written to Sir Alan Haselhurst re costing; he received a response promising to find out the costs.

NG are currently putting 20 km of under ground tunnelling between Elstree and St Johns Wood near London; the NG web site gives a cost of £74; Murphy construction, the company which carried out this work said it cost £43M. The cost of one 400Kv circuit (3 cables) is £45m. Richard displayed a map of the tunnels being built under London; there are plans for a further 40 km.

The downside of putting the power cables in tunnels is where the cable comes back to surface the power has to be converted; this involves a large pylon but this would not be a big as the footprint of a sub-station.

Richard had met Jim Street on 26th November when NG were in Bures. Richard has been nagging him re putting up the old style of pylons when there are modern designs. The Eagle Mast, which carries 400 Kv cables, has been designed in Denmark. Jim Street is now sending their pylon guru to Denmark so they may consider using these instead of the 20th century monsters. So, we have had some impact.

Richard concluded by saying that our future grid should be under ground, offshore, smarter and greener.

David Tooth thanked Richard and opened up the floor for questions.


All very well the power cables going under ground; what proposals do SVU have beyond Twinstead – through Wickham St Paul?


Very good point. What Denmark has said as a national target is that all power cables will be under ground in 40 years. If you don’t start you never do it. All we are saying is, let’s start with this first 30km going through exceptional countryside. A whole life cost would be putting cables down in 50-60 years; one problem we have, NG only look forward 5-6 years.


Does Denmark use 400 Kv cables.




Maintenance costs- how does underground compare with overground pylons?


NG don’t use this in the costing. You have got to realise it’s not what they tell us, it is what they don’t.


Assington were told a different story by NG. The first speaker mentioned spin; he is right; most potentially affected villages, including Assington, were omitted on the map shown us by NG. Why can’t the costs of underground cabling be associated with the cost of developing Sizewell, in comparison the former costs will be a minimal percentage of the nuclear plant costs. NG also told us that they may upgrade the 132 Kv line; this potentially would be bigger and higher – the mayor of Assington thought this a good idea!


Corridor 2 is NG’s favourite despite the AONB as it already has two lines running to Twinstead. The 132 Kv line was erected in the late 1930 or 40’s, this feeds the local area to a certain degree. The second line is 400Kv. The proposal just mentioned would be a terrible solution for us, there would be a huge visual impact. What you have described is a good example of their spin. One important aspect for all of us living in this area is the envelope of pylon visibility; they are generally visible over a long distance. Richard Barnes can see 12 from the back of his house; this number would double if corridor 2 goes ahead.


Would a single tunnel accommodate both sets of pylons? 


Would need two 4m wide tunnels. The Danes run more than one tunnel through any area with, for eg, 2 circuits in each; if a problem arises they can close one down, put more power through the other and are able to monitor temperature etc. We know this is doable because it has been done!

Richard Barnes said that NG have had a report on the visual impact of each corridor carried out; all would affect vast areas, corridor 4 in particular the area of impact would be huge. David Tooth said that the impact of cost in global terms, if you take into account the cost of building Sizewell, the difference between oeverground and tunnelling becomes insignificant.


Could the information re addresses of contacts for to write to be put in the parish magazines for people without computers.




The A12 already causes a scar, why not run the power lines down there?


NG considered 18 routes before it hit on the 4 proposed possible routes. People don’t think like that, they just look for the cheapest option, they don’t look at the big picture.


If tunnelling, can you put other services in to offset some of the cost?


Can’t get NG away from the idea that the cables in this project would be buried so, in this instance it wouldn’t work. The existing conduit already carries BT Broadband optic fibres so there is no reason why these couldn’t go through the tunnel. We are looking for a rational which makes tunnelling look less expensive. We need to know what revenue is associated with a 400Kv line particularly when we are providing the route of power for London. Heat is generated by the power lines – when they run at full capacity they run at 75ºC; if they are in a tunnel this heat can be trapped and used to heat for eg a hospital.


I live 165m away from the Twinstead Tee. How far would the proposed new line be away from the existing one? Also, what are the health implications?


The new line would have to run south of the existing pylons. It is impossible to predict where they will go. NG will decide which corridor and then where they will place the pylons.

Chris from Hintlesham and pressure group Bury Not Blight applauded SVU and the stance they are taking. NG deliberately proposed 4 possible route to pitch villager against villager. He is keen that the power lines go underground and has set up a petition. He suggested that people go on the web site and put their names to the petition. On the 24th November there were already 70 signatures. He also urged that we get petitions to Essex County Council, Babergh, Braintree etc. It frustrated him that this is all down to profit for NG; a price can’t be put on the countryside.


The group from Little Cornard don’t like any of the options; keen on under- grounding. Corridor 2 is not the logical route, it only because there are existing pylons. A direct route would be from Ipswich to Braintree; the problem is the Dedham Vale. Undersea cables are DC; problem is a 40 acre site is required for conversion to AC. Would AC work? AC cables are limited by length; DC can go further. 


NG costed running cables under the sea at £1.5billion. Our route is the cheapest and quickest. They are trying to link the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset, via under sea cabling to a sub-station further along the coast; the step down transformers there are housed in barn-like structures. The rest of the world does not use or need 40 acre sites. David Holland said that there are a lot of good reasons to use DC as the power comes from the wind farms as DC to Sizewell. Instead, the cables could be taken straight to Tilbury where the energy is needed, it would make more sense.


Are NG capable of carrying out this project? There seems to be a lot of under investment and , because a lot of cables are now made abroad, it is difficult to cost things.


Never the less they are charged with the responsibility for getting power from source to where it is consumed. It doesn’t matter what it coats because it will be funded.


NG don/t seem to think very much about health issues. If underground is this a good solution re potential health implications?


Within 1 m underground the electromagnetic field drops off with resulting in discernible effect. The association of childhood leukaemia for children conceived, developing in utero and being born in an are close to high energy power lines was mentioned.


Could we use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information?


A good idea. Richard Barnes has already mentioned this in a letter to Sir Alan Haselhurst MP.


Are you concerned that potentially there could be more new cables coming from the sub station in the future?


No, there is no reason to suppose this and we are also living in a time where there is little increase in electricity demand.

The chairman of Stoke-By-Nayland Parish council said they had originally planned to team up with Groton Pylon Alliance but had been taken aback by their approach. He felt that the parishes of south Suffolk should ally with SVU. He felt the campaign needed to be co-ordinated on a wider scale in order to tackle the IPC.

David Holland said he could allay their fears. The view of SVU was to try to present the case irrespective of where anyone came from. He had approached Sudbury Town Council to find out whether SVU could use the Town Hall to hold a public meeting there in January 2010. It is important to show everyone of these valleys that we are going to join together to fight, all warmly welcomed this. He has emailed the chair of PCs affected by the NG proposals in both Suffolk and Essex. So we don’t need to adjust our stance, SVU is already with you.

On the 23rd November Groton Pylon alliance had told all attending their meeting to write letters to the appropriate bodies saying no to corridors 3 and 4. 

It was felt that SVU needed to open up their web site by mentioning all the affected parishes ie Stoke-By-Nayland. 

Richard Barnes said that we must make this a national argument re tunnelling.

David Holland said that the SVU web site started life just to inform people, present alternative ideas – look at ideas beyond those that NG think about. Regarding who supports us, he would welcome any email of support from any parish, the web site is updated every day and he wants to express other people’s views/ideas re NG’s proposals on the we site. What is currently on the site was predominantly inspired by other people. If your parish wants its name on there, let him know.


Who do we write to in Babergh?


Nick Ridley. We do need to get all this information on the web site. If anyone knows any pertinent contacts please let us know and we will compile the list.

David Tooth thanked everyone for attending.

The formal part of the meeting ended and the evening concluded with refreshments and informal discussions between those attending.