Suffolk: Campaigners brand response on power line plans an ‘insult’

NATIONAL Grid’s response to feedback from the public over controversial proposals for pylons across the Suffolk countryside has been branded “ill-prepared, inadequate and an insult”.

The energy giant has issued a detailed 157-page report responding to the comments it received during the summer when it consulted the public over controversial plans for a new power connection between Bramford to Twinstead.

Campaign groups have been set up by people who want the entire route buried so as not to blight the countryside with more pylons but National Grid says it will only place part of the line underground.

Campaigners and Suffolk County Council say the report, released yesterday, fails to heed the calls from the community that the plans are not suitable.

Guy McGregor, the council’s head of planning, said it was a “really sad day” and that National Grid needed to find a new way forward with the project rather than using old technology and citing cost as an excuse.

He said: “It’s bitterly disappointing. An opportunity has been missed here to move us into the 21st Century by embracing new technology.”

The eight-week consultation process looking at the latest version of the plans – first proposed three years ago – was carried out in May, June and July.

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Nearly 400 representations were made by residents, campaigners and authorities including several parish councils.

The 157-page document was published yesterday, detailing all the issues raised during the consultation and answering each concern and plotting the next steps for the project.

National Grid says it will bury two 4km sections of the route, including two sections through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding natural Beauty and the Stour Valley.

But campaigners say that is not enough and that National Grid should pay to bury the entire route and prevent the Suffolk countryside being further blighted.

Brian Smethurst, senior project manager, said: “We have listened to all the feedback we have received, and this has helped us to shape our proposals.

“It will be just as important for people to make their views heard in the next stages, and we’ll be keen to listen to what you have to say as we carry on developing our plans.”

John Foster, of the Essex and Suffolk Coalition of Amenity Groups, said the report failed to provide adequate answers to the many valid objections raised.

He said: “In short, National Grid’s feedback response is ill-prepared, inadequate and an insult to the very many people who have put so much effort into explaining to National Grid why the current proposal is unacceptable.”

One concession National Grid has made is to change the point at which the underground section of cable running through the Stour Valley terminates following a recommendation from the Stour Valley Underground (SVU) campaign group.

David Holland of the SVU said: “We wish to commend National Grid for adopting our proposal that the underground cabling across the Stour Valley should terminate further south than originally proposed. This will yield significant benefits in terms of visual amenity and the restoration of important designated wildlife woodland.

“Sadly, that concludes our commendations. Overall, National Grid have shown an intransigence and have not responded appropriately to the full and well-researched representations of both the affected communities and the local government bodies that have so ably served us on this issue.”

National Grid will now develop a detailed connection design which will be subject to further public consultation before being submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in late 2013.

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