East Anglia: National Grid announce they will only bury small section of Bramford to Twinstead cables

A STRETCH of countryside is set to be scarred by pylons after the National Grid decided to push ahead with new plans, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

The proposal to bury cables for only two, two-and-a-half mile sections - rather than the whole 17-mile route - will cause outrage among campaigners.

MP Tim Yeo, chairman of the Energy Select Committee, last night branded the blueprint “completely unaccecptable”.

The energy giant was urged to bury cables for the full route between Bramford and Twinstead.

But today bosses - who helped the company recorded profits of �2.6billion last year - will unveil plans to use pylons for the vast majority of the route, having argued in the past it would be too expensive to put the entire stretch underground.

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An area between Whitestreet Green and Leavenheath which crosses through the Dedham Vale area of outstanding natural beauty and then a second section through the Stour Valley, north of Bures, have been selected to have underground cables.

Mr Yeo, who represents South Suffolk, wants National Grid to place the entire connection underground. He added that the announcement was a small improvement on original idea to bury no cables but the plan remained a “botched proposal”.

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“It’s a welcome but rather small step in the right direction,” he said. “We should give them credit for that, they have moved from their original position.

“But it’s completely unacceptable to have 12-miles of pylons through that part of Suffolk and there will continue to be very strong resistance.

“All this has been based on routes which were chosen for overhead transmission. What they should have done is go back to the drawing board. There’s no urgency about this.

“National Grid needs to say ‘OK, we accept that we got it wrong’ and go away and have a complete rethink and come back with something new. I’m quite certain that the whole overwhelming response to this will be ‘no’, but then National Grid would have been laughed out of court if they hadn’t moved a bit.”

National Grid first announced the project in the summer of 2009 and initially proposed four possible route corridors covering five possible options.

After a public consultation process which saw community groups fight the project and the East Anglian Daily Times launch a Stop the Pylons campaign, a preferred route corridor was announced.

Route corridor two was selected - running south of Hadleigh and Boxford but north of Leavenheath - with plans to build a new 400,000-volt line of pylons alongside an existing set, in the process replacing a smaller line of 132,000-volt line of pylons.

National Grid, which turned in a strong financial performance for 2011, with profits up by 5% to �2.6bn, was told to re-examine the cost of undergrounding and carried out an independent study last year.

Further consultation was carried out and last September National Grid said it was taking a new approach to routing transmission connections that placed a greater emphasis on reducing the visual impact of its projects on the landscape.

Project manager Shaun Hughes said: “When we announced our preferred corridor, we said we would look along the length of the route to see where the additional cost of undergrounding the cables could be justified.

“After further consultation with residents and other interested groups, and after carrying out further environmental surveys, we are proposing to build underground cables along more than a quarter of the total route.”

The next stage of the project will see continued discussions between National Grid and landowners as well as consultation with the public and experts, together with detailed environmental surveys.

This will help National Grid identify where within the preferred route corridor the overhead line and underground cable should be placed.

The company will then consult on its final draft proposal, before submitting a formal consent application to the Planning Inspectorate. The application is expected to be made in 2013 after which the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change will make the final decision on National Grid’s proposals.

Mr Hughes added: “The views of the public continue to be important to us. We are grateful to all those who have already responded and we have carefully considered the issues they raised. This feedback has been important in helping us shape our proposals. We now want to work with local communities and landowners to minimise the impact of anything we build.”

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