As we near the February 28th closing date for responses to National Grid’s proposals, we bring news of the responses of your local elected representatives, of meetings with both National Grid and other campaign groups and of our preparations for our formal response to National Grid.
Late February Newsletter
Friday, 26 February 2010
Ding - Ding - end of round one.Well very nearly. No knockout blows yet but much has happened during the initial phase of National Grid's (NG's) pylon consultation. And perhaps that is the most important aspect of the consultation so far. The consultation has been about a narrow set of options and has in no sense been a full and open consultation that National Grid are obliged to conduct.
Meetings - meetings - meetings...
Since the last time we wrote, SVU members have attended numerous meetings. Firstly, I should report that we met with National Grid at the Mill Hotel Sudbury and we were accompanied by valued colleagues and fellow travelers from the Dedham Vale Society (DVS) and from the Colne-Stour Countryside Association. SVU have been blessed with support and advice from these colleagues and we have learned a great deal through our association with them. Also at the NG meeting was David Tooth, Chair of the Hennys, Middleton and Twinstead Parish Council, the Council that originally sanctioned the setting up of SVU. What we learned was remarkable. National Grid acknowledged that the report they had prepared covering all of the options ("The Optioneering Report") for the grid reinforcement in this area was inadequate and that they are now starting to look properly at total underground cabling strategies and their costs. We also pressed for a similar assessment of the undersea strategy we have been advocating. This all seems a little late in the day but we await the resultswith interest.
Indeed, most recent information from the Somerset campaign (Pylon more Pressure) that is fighting a similar proposal for an NG pylon line through the Mendip Hills, and also from the press release from the Infrastructure Planning Commission(IPC) who will sit in judgement on NG's proposals once the planning application is made, shows clearly that the IPC insists that the under ground and undersea options are brought into the public consultation. Clearly, the same holds true for the Bramford to Twinstead proposals so we will be pressing for and expecting a reopening of the consultation process with the ideas we have been advocating on the web site included.
We have also attended meetings with other campaign groups and the recent, well organised one held byBury not Blightat Hintlesham Community Hall was a packed affair with National Grid fielding a large contingent to answer written questions from the people predominantly from the Suffolk side of corridor 2. As you might expect, the answers were very practiced and were at times, somewhat at odds with what we had been told in our earlier (closed) meeting with them. The Hintlesham meeting was capably chaired by SCC Councillor Kathy Pollard.
Kathy Pollard has in fact been very important to our campaigns to defend our countryside from the blight of pylons. In Essex, we have been heartened by the unanimous and fulsome rejections of the pylon solutions put forward by NG. Braintree DC have refused to show any preference for any of the corridors and ECC's Cabinet Portfolio Holder Tracey Chapman said "I have decided that we will not be sucked in to agreeing the least worst option if burying the lines isn't possible. Our response will make it plain that we are completely against the pylons." We in SVU could not have asked for more.
On the Suffolk side however, it was seen that whilst clearly rejecting the pylon strategies and demanding under ground cabling, they believed that they had to indicate a least worst option. This was disappointing but that said, this is far from the end of the matter. Kathy Pollard had forced the SCC Cabinet decision on their response to National Grid to be put before the whole Council which sawthe odd spectacle of some Conservative members speakingagainstshowing a preference for any corridor which was promptly followed by them votingfora response that included a preference. SVU is, as you know, non political but we do wonder how they will explain this to their voters.
As you probably know, SVU wrote toallrelevant Councillors and Council Officers explaining in detail, our "reject all corridors" strategy. We have in fact put a great deal of effort into presenting our case to your local representatives and will continue to do so as the consultation process and the expected planning application from NG progress.
Preparing a response to National Grid...
SVU have of course been preparing our response to the NG proposals and this has to be in this week. At the same time we also became aware that the Government Policy Statements that guide grid development strategies were also out for consultation and so we prepared and sent in a response to this. The policy draft policy statements advocated only over-land power lines so clearly we had to make an effort to have under ground and under sea cables included within the Policy Statements.
So where are we now with the pylons issue?
Our official SVU response to National Grid's proposals is in the final stage of development and currently we are adding all of the references that are needed to show the sources of our evidence. Put simply, our response rejects the validity of the consultation process thus far, rejects the need to show a preference for any corridor and presents our preferred grid upgrade strategies which are as you know,undersea,
We are keen however to ensure that the lights stay on while all this is being decided and to this end we advocate NG upgrading the wires on the existing pylons because according to an email from NG, this week, just this would add 50% (earlier information suggested only 30%) to their capacity withno new pylons.
In light of this weeks press release from the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) we feel that National Grid will have to reopen the consultation process and bring before you the underground and under sea strategies. As we have shown on the web site, undersea cabling fits very well with coming European Undersea Supergrid (in the North Sea) and we will be pressing for this as a route to a totally pylon free future by (say) 2040. We are also contesting NG's assertions that these strategies are too expensive because colleagues in DVS have shown that the actual cost for either undersea to London or underground Bramford to Twinstead would be a few pounds per year on each households annual electricity bill. This makes creating a pylon free landscape a bit of a bargain in our view!
Where do we go from here?
Our campaign will continue to develop on a number of fronts. We will:-
•continue to develop our undersea cabling ideas in light of European developments to present a solid case for the power from the projected new east coast generators to be connected as part of the European renewable energy grid to London direct, undersea.
•continue to develop our underground cabling proposals so that we have a solution to put forward should it turn out that local reinforcement of the grid is needed.
•continue to press for the free and open consultation that should always have been conducted.
•make representations to the IPC to defend our landscape from the blight of pylons and to ensure that the right decision is made in everyones best interests.
•continue to develop our collaborations with other campaign groups both locally and in other parts of the country where similar campaigns are being conducted.
•continue to develop the SVU website.
•continue to keep both you and the press informed of all related developments.
For anyone who wants to see the detail of our responses, we will be posting the one to National Grid along with our response to the consultation on the National Policy Statements on the web site in the next few days.
You have untilthis Sunday 28th February to respond in writing to National Grids proposalsso if you haven't done so already, please use the email addresses and information on the web site to make your views known -this is important and you can make a difference.
In closing I would like to point out the fact that a considerable amount of outstandingly valuable work has been carried out by the other campaigning groups and organisations involved in this issue. With respect to the latter, I would like in particular to highlight the written responses from the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project, the Colne-Stour Countryside Association and the Dedham Vale Society, to National Grid's proposals. They are simply invaluable contributions to our collective campaign to protect our beautiful landscape and are an enormous credit to those who researched and prepared these documents.
This newsletter was prepared by David Holland for and on behalf of Stour Valley Underground and distributed on 26th February 2010
If you want to express your views on this or any other aspect of SVU's campaign or opinion please write to
David Holland or Richard Barnes via the email address:-
This address is constantly monitored and we are keen to help.
Philosopher Victor Hugo once said:-
"An invasion of armies can be resisted,but not an idea whose time has come."
Such an idea is the Undersea Electricity Grid
but please don't rely on Mr Hugo being right:-