Suffolk: National Grid in pylons policy rethink

CAMPAIGNERS have hailed a decision by National Grid to launch a major review of its undergrounding policy as a “big breakthrough” as they continue to fight proposals for new pylons.

For the first time since the early 1990s, the energy giant is reviewing its approach to placing electricity cables underground.

The views of the public, industry, government, environmental and other organisations are now being sought on a proposed new approach, which has been published on a new website.

Campaign groups who have been fighting for more than a year against proposals for a new line of pylons between Bramford and Twinsted were upbeat last night following the announcement.

Previously National Grid had said the cost of placing cables underground was prohibitive, something the campaigners have challenged repeatedly.

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Groups including Bury Not Blight, Stour Valley Underground and the Groton Pylon Alliance were formed in response to the proposals and garnered considerable support both locally and nationally, including TV star Griff Rhys Jones, who called on National Grid to “think again”.

And the EADT ran its own campaign, backed by 1,000 people who called for the pylon plans to be scrapped.

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David Holland, of Stour Valley Underground, part of a coalition of organisations fighting for National Grid to look at alternatives to pylons, said it was “excellent news”.

He said: “We believe that there is an extremely strong case for undergrounding all of these connections. I think there has been a major shift in National Grid’s perception of what it is confronting with the public.

“This is one of the most important pieces of news we have had in a very long time. We have seen a lot of refusals to accept the arguments we have put forward.

“This is a huge change and key to showing that undergrounding is the way forward for the future.”

Bob Bowdidge of the Groton Pylon Alliance, which represents 18 village communities, said it was at the very least, a “spark in the right direction”.

He added: “They have obviously had to rethink what they were talking about, whether they come back and say they were right in the first place and that it was a ‘non-starter’, we’ll have to wait and see.”

In explaining the move, Hector Pearson, National Grid stakeholder and policy manager, that while issues such as cost and maintenance needed to be considered, it was also important to look at the impact infrastructure had on local landscapes.

He said: “We last reviewed our undergrounding approach in the early 1990s. With a significant amount of new power generation needing to connect to our network in the coming years, including low carbon generators such as nuclear power and wind farms, we believe that now is a good time to review our approach.

“As a transmission operator, we need to comply with statutory duties such as building a network that is efficient, coordinated and economic to construct, operate and maintain.

“We need to manage the costs of these projects responsibly as these costs will ultimately be paid for by electricity consumers. However, we also need to consider the impact on the local landscape and communities of what we build.”

National Grid consulted on four route corridor options and an announcement was expected earlier this year but the company was told to provide more technical details about the options and a second consultation period was opened.

Now any decision is set to be delayed until the middle of next year, before another stage of public consultation is launched.

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