Communities voice concern over new pylons

COMMUNITIES and councillors have demanded more details about plans for a new string of pylons that could be installed across the south Suffolk countryside.

Elliot Furniss

COMMUNITIES and councillors have demanded more details about plans for a new string of pylons that could be installed across the south Suffolk countryside.

National Grid has said additional overhead power lines will be needed between Bramford, near Ipswich, and Twinstead, near Sudbury, if plans for a new nuclear power station at Sizewell are approved.

Although the preferred course of the pylons has not been identified it is thought there are up to four possible routes, all traversing a series of villages and towns including Hadleigh, Boxford and Polstead.

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The decision on this major scheme will be made by the Government's new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) and not by Suffolk County Council or Babergh District Council.

Last night, Paul West, the county council's portfolio holder for the greenest county, said he planned to challenge National Grid to “justify” the plans for the new power line.

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He said: “The county council is extremely concerned about the severe environmental impact that the construction of a new 400kV overhead pylon line would have across South Suffolk.

“The council fully intends to challenge National Grid to justify why they consider it is essential to construct a new line. All options to reinforce the public electricity supply must be fully explored and evaluated before a new overhead line can be considered.”

Babergh District Councillor John Hinton, vice chairman of the strategy committee, said it would be important for National Grid to assess the environmental impact of any proposed new power lines.

He said: “Given the potential impact that this issue is likely to have on the Babergh countryside it is crucially important that National Grid listens to the views of local people and their elected representatives throughout the whole process.”

Hadleigh mayor Laurie Munson said he had not been told about the proposals and that they were “a concern” to him.

He said: “This is new to me. I just feel that the public should have a good opportunity to have a chance to see what the proposals are.

“We want to see what's being put (forward), what direction they're going in, from A to B. It's a concern, but until we know the fundamentals of what they're proposing and the route they are going to go, then we have 18 months to two years to asses this.”

Veronica Hobbs, of Boxford Parish Council, echoed Mr Munson's calls and said the views of parish and town councils had to be listened to during the consultation period.

She said: “Obviously the public and people like us should be consulted. I would hope we would be part of the consultation process.”

Kathy Pollard, leader of the Lib Dem and independent opposition group on Suffolk County Council, said it was important that National Grid respected the beautiful Suffolk landscape.

She said: “Communities need to know exactly what's being proposed so that they can make an assessment. The danger is that they find out too late. We need to find out what we can do instead, what the alternatives are.

“It's not enough just to allow people to protest, we need to know what the alternatives could be. There are so many areas of outstanding natural beauty around this area and they have got to be respected.”

John Hooker, chairman of Bramford Parish Council, said that people would obviously be concerned about the proposals, but until more details were released he could not comment any further.

He said: “This is the first I have heard of it. I'm assuming it will go from the switching station to the north west of Bramford. As a parish council we would want to look into it quite carefully.”

National Grid is inviting Suffolk Councillors to a briefing on September 21 where it will set out plans for the new line, marking the start of its public consultation on the proposal.

It is thought that that energy giant intends to make a planning submission to the IPC during spring 2011.

A spokeswoman for National Grid said she could not release information about the possible route of the new pylons but that the plans would be subject to a full public consultation.

She said: “National Grid has been asked to provide connections to the national electricity network in East Anglia for a number of new generators, including the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station.

“To make these connections it will be necessary to increase transmission capacity in the area by upgrading the existing equipment and building new infrastructure, including a new transmission power line.

“The point where the new overhead lines will connect to the system and the route it might take have yet to be decided and National Grid has been conducting extensive studies in the area to gather technical and environmental information.

“Based on these studies, a number of potential route corridor options are being looked at.”

She said a key part of National Grid's approach was to seek the views and opinions of councillors, local residents and community groups on all the possible options before drawing any conclusions.

She added: “To begin this process, members of the project team will be conducting a series of presentations to local councillors. These will be followed by public exhibitions where residents will have the opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions.”

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