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East Anglia: Campaigners and councils united against pylons

PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 May 2012


CAMPAIGNERS and councillors have united in their criticism of National Grid’s plans to underground just 8km of the controversial Bramford to Twinstead power connection.

As revealed in the EADT yesterday, the energy giant wants to bury two sections of the 30km route - a move that has been widely criticised by those in Suffolk hoping for the entire stretch to be placed underground and out of sight.

National Grid says it will spend £207million on the revised project and that it would cost an extra £300m to bury the entire route - an amount it cannot justify to shareholders.

The underground sections cover 4.2km through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between Whitestreet Green and Leavenheath and 3.8km across the Stour Valley, north of Bures.

The route of the 50-metre pylons marches through the heart of what is known as “Constable Country” - a popular area on the Suffolk tourist map where painters John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough created many of their iconic paintings.

One such artwork, Constable’s The Lock, is expected to fetch a British-record £25million at auction in July.

After National Grid formally announced the plans, a briefing was held at Suffolk County Council’s Endeavour House yesterday where it was agreed that more needed to be done to encourage National Grid to change its plans.

Guy McGregor, the county council’s head of planning, was joined by leader of Mid Suffolk District Council Tim Passmore and John Foster of the Essex and Suffolk Coalition of Amenity Groups.

Mr McGregor said: “Taking the lines above and below ground at various points will cost considerable sums of money and require a significant amount of land to achieve the transitions.

“All of this time and money could be better used to find more appropriate ways of transferring power that do not blight Suffolk’s beautiful countryside. I very much doubt National Grid’s plans will be right for Suffolk as a whole.”

He added: “I think what is also significant is that they started off by saying it was all impossible to do anything underground at all, but now they have come up with some of it.

“It’s a bit of a scrap for the people of South Suffolk in hoping that they can go away and be content with what, if you like, our ‘lords and masters’ running National Grid have deigned to give to us, but for me it is a disappointment. For example, why have we got these short stretches of undergrounding if that indeed it is perceived as the right way of doing these things? Why not do the whole lot?”

The EADT has led its own Stop the Pylons campaign while other community groups have opposed the plans since they were put forward in 2009.

Mr Foster said National Grid had completely failed to “move with the times” and had come up with the “same old arguments and the same old pylons”.

He said: “Whilst we welcome the limited undergrounding, this will have little significant impact on the blight caused by the proposed line on our spectacular countryside.”

Robert Erith, chairman of the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership, welcomed the proposal to underground the line through the AONB but said that the full stretch between Whitestreet Green and the Stour Valley should be buried, rather than book-ended with four imposing sealing end compounds, where the cables enter and exit the ground.

He said: “National Grid does not appear to have fully considered the impact on people and businesses including those that rely on visitors attracted to this beautiful area.”

Kathy Pollard of the Suffolk Liberal Democrat Party said it was “very disappointing news”, adding: “National Grid have consistently inflated the cost of undergrounding. They have a responsibility to future generations, just as we do as local councillors. This is very bad news for communities all along the route – and for tourism in Suffolk.”

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Suffolk has risen 40 places in national league tables for students in the county achieving the standard GCSE pass in English and maths, provisional figures have revealed.

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