Suffolk & Essex: Customers ‘willing to pay’ to bury power lines

NATIONAL Grid has been told it should listen to its customers, who say they are willing to pay extra on their bills to bury power cables underground.

Suffolk County Council says an independent report commissioned by National Grid shows that people are prepared to pay more in order to prevent pylons blighting the landscape.

The report showed that about 80 per cent of people would be willing to pay something extra, with the most agreeable option being to pay �20 per year to bury 50 mile stretches of cable through Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The issue is particularly important in south Suffolk and north Essex, where National Grid has been consulting on controversial proposals for a new line of pylons between Bramford, near Ipswich, and Twinstead, near Sudbury, passing through the Dedham Vale AONB.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for planning, said National Grid had heard through consultation that the Bramford to Twinstead scheme should be undergrounded – and now, from the “willingness to pay” report, it had the evidence that people would be willing to incur increases in their bills to see such schemes buried.

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He said: “This is unbelievable. National Grid’s own research shows that consumers are willing to contribute towards reducing the impact of pylons yet National Grid still hasn’t come up with a plan to underground more of the lines.

“We’ve told National Grid in no uncertain terms that the Bramford to Twinstead scheme should be undergrounded completely but the company has consistently argued that it would cost too much and people wouldn’t be prepared to contribute. They now have evidence which refutes those claims.

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“Unlike National Grid, we believe this part of Suffolk is remarkable and we should do everything we can to protect it from pylons.”

The county council has also written to energy industry watchdog the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets - Ofgem - urging it to fully examine the “willingness to pay” report in relation to future projects.

A National Grid spokeswoman said the company could only spend a certain amount - set by Ofgem - on infrastructure.

She said the next step in the consultation process over the Bramford to Twinstead line would start in December and decisions on undergrounding would still be made on a case-by-case basis.

She said: “We have reviewed our routing approach and undergrounding approach and that’s given us more opportunities to look at areas where we can underground

“This report was looking specifically at existing infrastructure for now.

“We have got our new approach to routing and are looking at them on a case-by-case basis.

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