It's one of the most controversial projects the region has seen for decades. But is the Norfolk pylon scheme worth the backlash? BETHANY WALES reports.

National Grid's plans for a 112-mile line from Dunston, near Norwich, to Tilbury on the Thames estuary has faced loud opposition since it was first put forward in April 2022.

The proposals would see a string of 45-50m high pylons erected to carry power generated from wind farms off the Norfolk coast to the rest of the country, carving a route through south Norfolk, into Suffolk, and on to Tilbury in Essex.

East Anglian Daily Times: A map of the proposed route from Norfolk to TilburyA map of the proposed route from Norfolk to Tilbury (Image: National Grid)

Critics of the scheme range from local MPs, to district councils, to the National Farmers Union, as well as huge swathes of people living in communities it passes through. 

They say the impact on the countryside will be devastating, with knock-on effects on historic buildings and even tourism, and are calling for National Grid to bury the cables or run the line offshore.

East Anglian Daily Times: County councillor Lana Hempsall (Image: Conservative Party)County councillor Lana Hempsall (Image: Conservative Party) (Image: (Image: Conservative Party))

Lana Hempsall, Norfolk county council's deputy cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, even branded the plans “a disgrace”, adding: “It's not fair and not right for Norfolk residents to have to bear the burden of this so-called modernisation under the banner of renewable energy to the South East.”

And yet, despite strong local opposition, supporters maintain that not only will this project be good for the country at large, but the local economy too.


Renewable energy is a huge money maker in East Anglia.

It’s estimated the sector’s value to the region could soar to £3.5bn by 2035, benefitting not only those directly involved, but businesses throughout the supply chain.

East Anglian Daily Times: Norfolk pylons: Is the Norwich to Tilbury proposal a good thing for the region?Norfolk pylons: Is the Norwich to Tilbury proposal a good thing for the region? (Image: Newsquest)

However, limited infrastructure is threatening to scupper these optimistic predictions.

Wind farms off the East Anglian coast are set to deliver enough clean energy for more than 18 million homes by the end of the decade.

The trouble is, the onshore infrastructure - which was developed in the 1960s - is nowhere near able to cope with that capacity.

East Anglian Daily Times: East Anglia ONE wind farmEast Anglia ONE wind farm (Image: Submitted)

Though it has been successful in meeting demand to date, National Grid says achieving government targets for renewable and low-carbon energy “will require the largest overhaul of the electricity grid in a generation”.

And, according to industry leaders, solving the infrastructure crisis would play a key role in attracting crucial investment

Lexi Brackpool, the cluster project manager for East Wind, said ensuring offshore wind projects could run to their full potential would result in a long-term boost for the local economy.

East Anglian Daily Times: Lexi Brackpool, the cluster project manager for EastwindLexi Brackpool, the cluster project manager for Eastwind (Image: Eastwind)

She said: “East Anglia is playing a vital role in delivering on these targets with 5GW of power already being generated off the coast and up to 15GW anticipated by 2030. 

“Nationally this will power the equivalent of 45pc of UK homes. This activity will support the creation of up to 7,500 jobs and offer substantial opportunity for regional investment.”

East England Energy Group (EEEGR) chairman, Kevin Keable, agreed and added: “Local Authorities are working closely with National Grid to ensure that there are local benefits to society and certainly these transmission network upgrades are necessary for us to connect all our newly emerging offshore wind farms. 

East Anglian Daily Times: EEEGR chairman, Kevin KeableEEEGR chairman, Kevin Keable (Image: EEEGR)

“Without a transmission network upgrade, we simply cannot connect all this extra power we need. 

“These new windfarms and transmission networks will lead to more jobs and an improved economy in our region and beyond, while taking us towards our Net Zero goals.

“This is not just an East Anglian issue, the whole country and again, the whole world is trying to balance the requirements of energy security and Net Zero with more infrastructure to transmit that power.”

Last week, the scheme also got the backing of shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who said it would play a major role in helping the UK become “the energy leaders of the future”.

East Anglian Daily Times: Shadow chancellor Rachel ReevesShadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (Image: Newsquest)

In an interview with this newspaper, she said: “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. 

"Investment is being held back due to a lack of grid connections and if we carry on like this we'll find ourselves increasingly reliant on Putin and other dictators around the world for our basic energy needs.

"If we want to get Putin's boot off our neck then we need to invest in homegrown renewables. Otherwise, we'll find ourselves very insecure."


One of the most contentious aspects of the debate is whether the same infrastructure upgrades could be delivered without blighting the countryside.

Campaigners argue that alternative options, such as running the cable offshore or underground, would achieve the same results and be less intrusive.

East Anglian Daily Times: Norfolk pylons: Is the Norwich to Tilbury proposal a good thing for the region?Norfolk pylons: Is the Norwich to Tilbury proposal a good thing for the region? (Image: National Grid)

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said: "The way in which electricity is generated and used is fundamentally changing so we all need to understand that the national grid must respond to renewable generation and electric vehicles.

"But that doesn't mean that we should settle for disfiguring the most valued landscapes or fence Diss in with towering structures.

"Our county needs and requires a more intelligent approach to reinforcing our electricity transmission network - and that includes considering offshore options rather than simply settling for pylons."

However, National Grid has so far dismissed these suggestions as less practical and more expensive, with any additional costs passed along to consumers.

A spokeswoman said: “National Grid always carefully and transparently compares infrastructure options, as a key part of developing project proposals. 

“There is a balance to be struck between the visual aspects of a proposal and the costs which will ultimately be paid for by customers.