Mounting opposition against bid for substation at beauty spot

Members of the Save Our Sandlings group, pictured at the Broom Covert AONB site Picture: PETER CHADW

Members of the Save Our Sandlings group, pictured at the Broom Covert AONB site Picture: PETER CHADWICK - Credit: Peter Chadwick

Energy bosses are facing growing pressure to rethink plans for a substation in a Suffolk beauty spot – after the site’s owner raised a “technical objection” to its use.

Sunrise over the Broom Covert site Picture: BRIDGET CHADWICK

Sunrise over the Broom Covert site Picture: BRIDGET CHADWICK - Credit: Bridget Chadwick

EDF Energy raised potential concerns about ScottishPower Renewables’ (SPR) proposals for a 30-acre substation site within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The company’s comments were made as the owner of the Broom Covert site, between Leiston and Sizewell, which SPR had included as a possible substation site in its latest consultation, which ended on November 12. The substation, which is part of SPR’s East Anglia TWO wind farm project, would include 21-metre tall structures and transformers to transfer power on to the National Grid.

Responding as a consultee, EDF said that while it was “fully aware” of the importance of SPR’s offshore windfarm proposals, it wanted to raise a number of “observations”.

EDF said it had “substantial legal responsibilities for emergency planning” and wanted to ensure development at Broom Covert would not “compromise the ... safe operations of nuclear power generation at Sizewell”.

A bird of prey at the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, which is proposed as a possible substation site

A bird of prey at the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, which is proposed as a possible substation site Picture: PAUL SAWYER - Credit: Paul Sawyer

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The company also said the Broom Covert site currently performed an “important function” as a site to migrate protected wildlife, which could be displaced during the development of Sizewell C.

EDF said that as SPR’s detailed proposals were not yet available, it needed to raise a “technical objection” in order to reserve its right to raise further issues when the full details became available.

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The response, which has not been publicised but has been seen by campaigners, is the latest to highlight possible concerns with the substation development.

Last week, TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham backed the “Save Our Sandlings” campaign, opposing the AONB’s industrialisation. Mr Packham, made a video urging SPR to “work harder” and find a brownfield site for the substation.

MORE: TV’s Chris Packham joins fight against huge substation in Suffolk beauty spotA leaked copy of Natural England’s response to the consultation also revealed major concerns about the substation, which it said would be “extremely challenging” to develop without harming the protected landscape.

The report said SPR’s plans threatened to “overwhelm” the AONB and “squeeze out” the landscape’s remaining traditional character. Natural England said the policy was for no major development in AONBs unless “exceptional circumstances” can be shown, which had not happened in this case.

MORE: Leaked report warns huge substation could ‘overwhelm’ Suffolk beauty spotThe response also said that when considered in combination with other nearby developments, including Sizewell power station and the Greater Gabbard and Galloper substations, the plans threatened to “overwhelm this part of the AONB” and “sever” the landscape in two.

SPR had included Broom Covert as a potential substation site following criticism of its initial choice of an area near Friston.

Suffolk councils, together with people nearby, had opposed Friston’s inclusion, saying its rural setting was unsuitable for such an industrial development.

Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Coastal District Council and Waveney District Council, urged SPR to consider the viability of all sites – including the AONB – saying protected status should not rule it out.

The councils had called for energy companies to take a more co-ordinated approach to infrastructure projects, recognising the other developments on the horizon, such as Sizewell C and a National Grid connection with Europe. They said Broom Covert could be more suitable as it required less underground cabling and would be less disruptive to the environment. This led to SPR launching the extra stage of consultation, called phase 3.5.

The councils’ official response favoured the Broom Covert site as the “lesser of two evils”.

SOS member Peter Chadwick said Natural England’s response, had “blown out of the water” the councils’ support for Broom Covert. He said the council should have pushed for a brownfield site, instead of supporting an option that would be bad for local people and the Sandlings, which he said was regionally important for tourism.

“We are thrilled to have such high profile support as well as Natural England’s response putting forward many of the same arguments as us as to why it definitely should not and cannot be built on Broom Covert near Leiston,” he added.

The group said it was now important to keep up pressure.

Site to be announced by end of year

ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) said it would consider all the feedback it received

An SPR spokesman said: “Following requests from local authorities to explore the Sizewell Estate land, we added a further phase of consultation to seek community views on Broom Covert as an alternative site.

“We have already received responses from a wide range of stakeholders, statutory bodies and members of the public.

“All feedback is currently being reviewed and will be used to inform our plans going forward. Confirmation of a substation site which balances all aspects will be announced before the end of the year.”

SPR said its East Anglia windfarms could provide clean energy to power the equivalent of 1.5 million homes and help meet carbon reduction targets.

Suffolk councils said their representations had been to encourage SPR to consider the viability of all potential sites for the substation.

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