Norfolk County Council slams 'totally unacceptable' pylon plan

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor and pylons

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor said plans for a new line of pylons across East Anglia are "totally unacceptable". - Credit: Ian Burt/Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council has added its voice to growing opposition to plans to build a new line of electricity pylons from Norwich to the Thames Estuary.

County council leader Andrew Proctor has written to energy minister Greg Hands expressing "serious concerns" over the National Grid's East Anglia GREEN project.

The proposal would see the 50m high structures run from Dunston, just south of Norwich, to Tilbury in Essex.

The National Grid has said the project is imperative to ensure the UK hits its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

However the scheme has faced fierce opposition since consultation began earlier this year.

In his letter to Mr Hands, the council leader confirmed that County Hall would be objecting to the scheme as it threatened to have "totally unacceptable impacts" on the county.

Minister of state for energy Greg Hands

Minister of state for energy Greg Hands - Credit: UK Parliament

He wrote: “We’re proud of Norfolk’s role in the development and delivery of clean, sustainable energy and the plans for offshore wind energy in the North Sea are a vital part of delivering the government’s net zero emissions target by 2050.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

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“However, the current proposals by National Grid threaten significant and totally unacceptable impacts on Norfolk’s communities, businesses and cherished landscape.

“For that reason I have written to both National Grid and the energy minister, laying out our concerns and urging him to consider alternatives, not least offshore and underground options, that could allow the clean energy from the North Sea to join the National Grid without the disproportionate impacts that overhead cables could have on our county.”

National Grid’s director of new infrastructure, Zac Richardson, has previously said the firm does not believe it is "technically feasible or economic" for the line to go offshore.

Mr Proctor added his authority will “continue to work with the government and with the National Grid, as well as our partners here in Norfolk, to find an appropriate, sustainable way to ensure the green energy our county contributes to the UK can also benefit Norfolk as a whole”.

A map showing the new proposed power line through south Norfolk.

A map provided by National Grid shows the proposed route of the new power line, in purple. The line itself would run somewhere within the width of the purple band. Norwich can be seen to the north-east. The blue lines are existing cables. - Credit: National Grid/Google

Under the current proposals, the line would go underground to pass through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on the Suffolk-Essex border, but would run above ground for the vast majority of the approximately 100-mile route.

Campaigners from the Essex Suffolk Norfolk Pylons action group - who oppose the scheme - are among those pushing for the entire line to run offshore instead.

The campaign’s founder, Essex-based Rosie Pearson, described the scheme as "an old-fashioned, destructive project", highlighting the potential impact on the region's landscape.

Rosie Pearson

Rosie Pearson, campaign coordinator of the Essex Suffolk Norfolk Pylons action group - Credit: Susan Lang

The group has also launched its own survey to glean the public's opinion on the plans.

MPs from across the region - including South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon - have also together questioned why an overland route has been presented as a "fait accompli".

In their own letter to Mr Hands last month, they said: "Given that East Anglia GREEN involved an initial decision to reject an undersea option and that this is meant to be a public consultation on the ‘choice’ of how the electricity is transmitted – in a context of a government supporting an offshore grid – at the very least, we would ask that the consultation be expanded to permit the public to express their views on the wider choice of overland versus undersea."

Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk

Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

Asher, Minns, executive director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, warned that some forms of energy infrastructure could not be avoided. 

'Global warming is what happens when the global carbon budget is out of balance,' says Asher Minns,

'Global warming is what happens when the global carbon budget is out of balance,' says Asher Minns, executive director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA Picture: Kieron Tovell - Credit: Kieron Tovell

He said: "We have to see a massive transformation in the way we use electricity and the types of energy being generated - so it is inevitable we will need to accept more infrastructure as a result of this.

"We are in the midst of a climate and energy crisis that needs addressing now. 

"New energy routes across land may be the quickest way of achieving this."

Electricity pylons on the landscape at Wormegay. Picture: Ian Burt

Electricity pylons on the landscape at Wormegay. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

The project is expected to be discussed at a Monday meeting of South Norfolk Council’s cabinet. 

The campaign group’s survey is open until June 14 and can be found at: https://www.pylonseastanglia.co.uk/ 

National Grid’s consultation is open until June 16 and can be found by searching for ‘East Anglia GREEN’ at https://www.nationalgrid.com/electricity-transmission/