There is now a region wide threat to the East Anglian Landscape and never before has the East Anglian Daily Times "Stop the Pylons" campaign been more relevant. For more than a year, groups like Stour Valley Underground have been campaigning against National Grid's (NG's) plans to further desecrate the lovely low relief landscape of this region with yet more pylons. But in challenging National Grid on all levels from environmental to detailed technical and economic levels, the campaigners have been forced to look at the issue in a far broader way than just considering the impact of more pylons in the Stour Valley. We now know that the whole region is under threat from further, as yet unspecified environmental blighting from the energy industry.

A region wide threat to East Anglia’s landscape from the energy industry

By way of example, National Grid have in September 2010 released their "Offshore Development Information Statement" (ODIS) for 2010. This outlines developments needed to connect the coming enormous offshore windfarms to the on-land grid. And when I say enormous, I mean windfarms with a total output close to half the entire electricity usage of this country. All this power needs connecting to the grid and when you look in detail at National Grids proposals, you see suggestions of new lines of pylons through unspoilt wild and special areas such as the Waverny Valley. (Ref: ODIS 2010 Page 94 - see map and areas shaded as "Region for OnshoreReinforcementDevelopment")

Then there are the as yet unplanned developments. There is no coherent or strategic plan for more gas powered power stations but they must surely come otherwise then the wind stops blowing, the lights will go out. We in East Anglia have importation facilities for the gas so logically, we will get more power stations to use it and more power lines to link them to the grid.

When you read through ODIS which is available to all, free,online on the NG website, you see a far from complete picture of where the renewable energy revolution will take us, but a scary picture it is for those who love the beautiful landscape of East Anglia. Read it and you see maps with undersea cables carrying thousands of megawatts of power south from the North Sea to reach landfall where? I cannot answer that, and nor can they but the arrows on the map end in the sea, just off Norfolk. (Ref: ODIS Page 73)

We present this article as a call to the County Councils of East Anglia:- Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent, to collaborate in rising to the joint challenges these developments bring. We need to embrace these developments, see them for the economic opportunity they are, for the better, cleaner, more environmentally responsible developments they can be. But environment means more than just addressing global warming. We have to force the energy industry to innovate, not desecrate. Cost effective technology now exists that allows the grid to exist in the landscape without blighting it. We need our councils to see the big picture on this issue and press for all new on-land connections to be put underground such that the enormous amenity value of our landscape is preserved. East Anglia is not simply the space between the Windfarms out at sea and the major electricity users of London and is certainly not simply a place to be strewn with pylons in a rush to meet 2020 goals.

Currently, an all too piecemeal approach is being taken to energy infrastructure development. Unless we all step back from our local issues with planning applications for energy related developments and look at where this is all taking us, we risk seeing the landscape of our region despoiled by the energy industry for generations. If however we step back, look at the bigger picture, see this opportunity and its down sides for what they are, we can embrace the challenge and the new technologies. We can build an energy future that enhances our region's economy and at the same time, free our wonderful landscape from the visual blight of electricity pylons.

This is possible, but right now we need our County Councils to work together in the interests of the future of our region. We need them to collectively see the bigger picture. For an insight to the bigger picture, click on the icon below.