I have again called for a complete rejection of National Grid’s proposals to build a line of pylons from Hinkley Point to close to Avonmouth.
These 'Mega Pylons' were first proposed in 2009 by National Grid and would stretch accross the Cheddar Valley to transmit electricity from the proposed new Hinkley Point C (nuclear power station).
In my letter to the Planning Inspectorate as it undertakes the final stage of the planning process, I argued that the National Grid has continued to fail to explore and cost alternative technologies.
This is madness. National Grid is required to look at alternatives to pylons to meet the basic requirements of National Planning statements. It’s obvious that a line of 110 foot pylons across the Levels is going to stand out, and spoil views across beautiful open countryside. National Grid have to look at the costs and benefits of other means of transmission yet National Grid has operated as if there are no alternatives.
Since the project was first announced in 2009, we have been demanding that National Grid seriously consider going underground, or sub-sea under the Bristol Channel. I remain frustrated that although these alternatives were overwhelming favoured by affected communities, the options have never been seriously explored in consultations.
I’m particularly concerned at the impact of the pylons on the most directly affected communities.
I have to praise the detailed representations of the three most affected parish councils – Badgworth, Compton Bishop, and Mark. I commend the thoroughness of unpaid councillors in representing the impact of this complex project on their communities, and challenging the proposal.
Those representations confirm the impact that construction work – now to be extended by two years – would further upset communities. Picking up on concerns expressed recently in local media, I’ve also raised the issue of sustained movements of large trucks bringing aggregate from quarries at Cheddar via Coffin Lane, Axbridge and then the red routed A38, and using rural roads B roads for access.
People are rightly perturbed that in a quiet unlit rural area construction will occur on seven days a week, with a possible 14 hour day. Such a huge disruption to people’s lives deserves real consultation and proper discussion with communities.
Underlying my latest submission is a sense of why the rush?
I’ve pointed out the uncomfortable truth that the driver of the new connection is Hinkley C nuclear power station, but Hinkley C is in trouble. With the recent announcement of a second legal challenge – from the German electricity producer Greenpeace Energy – Hinkley C seems further away than ever.
It is hard to believe that if Hinkley C even goes ahead, it will be ready to produce electricity before 2025, and so I wonder at the rush to get this process concluded when critically, alternative technology will become more certain, and costs will reduce, with time.
And the recent announcement that National Grid will be spending more than £500m mitigating the impact of established pylons on very sensitive areas shows that even National Grid is changing its outlook, recognising that the public are willing to contribute to ‘damage limitation’ of our beautiful area.
My hope is that the Planning Inspectorate will reject the project, and so create the space to have a proper open conversation about the alternatives, and how they could work in ten years’ time.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to bring her knowledge and understanding of the project and communities views to the final parts of the planning process. I will be speaking at an Open-floor event at Mark next Tuesday evening, 17th March; and at thematic sessions scheduled for April.
I can understand that for many, after nearly six years of fighting, they are worn down and feel that the pylons are a ‘done deal’. But the fundamental issues have never been properly addressed, and with at least ten years before Hinkley C might start up, we need to keep asking the serious questions. I will continue to argue against these pylons and for a common sense discussion about the impact this could have on people’s lives.
14th March 2015