Fears over routes for new power pylons

ENERGY giant National Grid has unveiled the four possible routes of a major new line of electricity pylons - which could be built through a number of picturesque Suffolk villages.

Elliot Furniss

ENERGY giant National Grid has unveiled the four possible routes of a major new line of electricity pylons - which could be built through a number of picturesque Suffolk villages.

The line will run from a substation in Bramford, near Ipswich, to a power junction at Twinstead, near Sudbury.

Depending on which option is chosen, the pylons could end up in close proximity to idyllic villages including Kersey, Edwardstone, Polstead and Boxford.

Local councillors and community representatives have spoken out against the proposals but National Grid said the upgrade is essential to meet demand in the East Anglian region, heightened by the prospect of two new nuclear power plants at Sizewell.

Currently, three 400kv power lines run into the Bramford substation but only one runs out.

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The new line would double the output and also absorb power that is expected to be produced by wind turbines along the Suffolk coast in the future.

National Grid wants to install up to 90 pylons along the route and said the overhead lines would be much cheaper and less disruptive than installing an underground connection.

Option one would see a new overhead line run from Bramford to Twinstead, parallel to an existing 400kv National Grid line and a 132kv route owned by EDF energy networks.

Option two would be to build a new line in place of the 132kv line, which would, like option one, run through the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty south of Boxford.

Options three and four run north of Hadleigh and Boxford, with option four extending even further north around the villages of Elmsett, Lindsey Tye and Edwardstone.

National Grid major projects manager David Mercer said: “This line will play a key role in helping to maintain reliable electricity supplies in East Anglia and Britain as a whole.

“We recognise that the proposed overhead line is a major development and we are committed to full public consultation.”

The consultation process will begin in October and will include meetings in many of the areas affected by the proposed new line.

Jim Street, who will manage the project for National Grid, said the possible routes put forward varied from 26km to 30km.

He said that with three pylons per km and at a cost of �1.5million per km it was much cheaper than installing the cables underground, as had been suggested by some local representatives.

He said: “The cost of 'undergrounding' the cables is 12 to 17 times more expensive than overhead lines and we would be in the upper area of this range were we to 'underground' this project.

“We genuinely haven't made a decision on which is the preferred option.

“The network has stood in place since the 1960s and we will have to do some work on the existing lines and substations. We have pushed the existing designs as far as current technology will allow us.

“We are expecting some opposition and we do take public consultation very, very seriously. We are aware of the general sensitivities of building overhead power lines in nice parts of the countryside and this is one of the reasons why we have got the consultation.”

National Grid could not confirm whether a new substation would be built in Twinstead but said some new substations would be needed while others would need to be extended.

As part of the consultation process National Grid representatives will be holding meetings at villages located along the potential routes and there will also be a website and freephone number that residents can use to submit their views and feedback on the plans.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said it was “extremely concerned” about the severe environmental impact that the new pylons would have.

She said: “The county 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.

“We will be pressing National Grid to explore these options as well as looking at the proposed routes over the coming months, to get them to find the least damaging solution for Suffolk.”

THE consultation process for the plans for new pylons between Bramford and Twinstead will officially start in October and will last into 2011.

The final Statement of Community Consultation will be published later this month and the first meeting with parish councils from potentially affected areas will be held.

Between October and December the public will be consulted over the route corridor options - stretches of land in which an overhead line could be sited.

National Grid will take these views into account and decide on a preferred option before developing “route alignments” for the proposed line and carrying out further consultations with affected communities and interested parties between January and March 2010.

Environmental studies will be carried out and a final consultation held before a Development and Consent Order application and Consultation Report are sent to the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will make the final decision, during summer 2011.