Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, Dr Dan Poulter, today joined hundreds of residents and fellow MPs, Richard Bacon and Jo Churchill, in sending a strong message to National Grid about their proposed Norwich to Tilbury pylon route.
The project also aims to connect the massive expansion in new offshore wind generation off the Suffolk and Norfolk coast with the rest of the power grid. The current proposals, which Dr Poulter believes are unacceptable, would comprise mostly overhead lines, including pylons and conductors, with only limited underground cabling through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as well as a new 400 kV connection substation in the Tendring district.
Many parts of Mid-Suffolk will be detrimentally affected if these plans go ahead in their current form. and it is Dr Poulter’s view that we must protect our beautiful Suffolk countryside, both for ourselves and for the generations to come.
Dr Poulter remains especially concerned that the Norwich to Tilbury Project and the current proposals by National Grid fail to provide detailed costings or evaluations for alternative means of energy transmission, including the potential for the undergrounding of cables, or indeed his preferred option and based on today’s protest, that of many people, which is to offshore the energy transmission route along the seabed.
National Grid have put forward what appears to be a predetermined pylon route without providing sufficient evidence or an understanding of what the costings of the other transmission options may be. It could be that greater undergrounding or offshoring of cables comes with a cost, but the cost of these processes could then be distributed across a broad time frame which would protect consumers against substantial or sudden increases in their energy bills.
When we already have a line of pylons from Norwich connecting down through Norfolk, Suffolk and North Essex, rather than building a completely new line of pylons, why have National Grid not considered, for example, reinforcing the existing line of pylons or building another set right next to the original pylons? These are things that should be properly evaluated and brought forward, so that the public can understand what the evidence base is for the current proposals, but once again, we have not seen proper evaluation and costings from National Grid.
In defence of their plans, National Grid have argued that existing lines do not have the capacity to accommodate the extra supply even with their own planned upgrades, but this doesn’t fully answer Dr Poulter’s or residents question and explain why National Grid will not better evidence their current proposals and compare them to alternatives. Further to this, if National Grid are prepared to underground the network in the Dedham Vale area and ‘Constable Country’ then why is it not possible to do so elsewhere? Surely much more of our beautiful Suffolk countryside is deserving of such protection.
Dr Poulter has heard of a general estimation of it being five to ten times more expensive to use underground rather than overhead cables and that communities or individuals affected by new pylons may be offered financial compensation. 'Five to ten times more expensive' is somewhat vague and not strong enough evidence, especially when it hasn’t been directly applied to the Norwich to Tilbury project.
Like many people, Dr Poulter wants to protect the integrity of the countryside and preserve land primarily for agricultural use.
Looking to other parts of the country such as Scotland for example, offshoring of transmission has always been the preferred route from day one, so Dr Poulter remains optimistic that there are other viable options that could be brought forward by National Grid.
Judging by the strength of feeling at today’s protest, National Grid have a long way to go in brining forward sensible and transparent proposals and Dr Poulter will continue to work with other MPs to make the case that we need to have better alternatives than the current Norwich to Tilbury Project proposals and we need to fight to stop these new pylons from being built.