Campaigning to rid our landscape of the threat of more pylons

Hailing from the East of England, we reject National Grid’s proposals to patch up the tired old 20th century grid and demand a 21st century solution that rids the landscape of the blight of electricity pylons. Here on this website we can show you just how this could be achieved...


Welcome to the website we established in 2009 that aims to keep you informed about our campaign to oppose National Grid’s proposals to place more pylons in our lovely landscape.

2022 sees us move our output to social media

and thus to Facebook 

This is it! National Grid have moved to the final phase of their Bramford to Twinstead Reinforcement Development Consent Order application process. The formal public consultation on their proposals finished on the 21st March 2022. That date was supposed to mark the end of any opportunity the community has to shape National Grid’s proposals, or so we thought. 

Community groups and councils had little time to develop their counter proposals for “better ways” to deliver this Grid reinforcement without wholly unacceptable damage to the natural beauty of this area. In what is a fast moving and complex situation, Stour Valley Underground seek to support our communities by publishing information, news, updates, notice of public meetings and much, much more on the Stour Valley Underground Facebook Page and also on the Group of the same name.The Group is also our repository of downloadable documents to support those taking a deeper dive into this issue. Time is short if you want your voice heard on this issue. For latest news and support, please make your next stop our Facebook because as we say,  this is it!

…and this is it, our lovely open East Anglian landscape, 

marched across with pylons and threatened with more to come…

But as you’re here…

Stour Valley Underground set out to shape development rather than simply to oppose it. We are, after all, supportive of a process of decarbonisation of energy production. But currently, the planning system, government energy policy and the regulatory framework that guide energy industry development proposals are simply not fit for purpose. What we are seeing is something of a free for all driven by a catastrophisation of thinking that destroys balanced consideration, excessive fiscal incentives, and the ever present need to deliver economic growth, in this case through an energy industry that government wants to see grow to be the largest sector of the economy. The result is fast and dirty solutions, the imposition of deeply ugly energy infrastructure on cherished landscapes and solar farms blanketing best and most versatile farmland which should be left for food production at a time of worldwide shortage. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

SVU seek to press for balance, planning that makes best use of land, planning decisions that put the right thing in the right place, infrastructure location that preserves natural beauty, and mitigation that is effective and preserves character of place.

But does it work? YES. 

Stour Valley Underground work with other groups and councils to press for better outcomes and we have successes to show for it. We do the heavy lifting Our initial campaign saw National Grid agree to take forward a proposal for the Bramford to Twinstead Reinforcement Project that included the undergrounding of the power lines across the Stour Valley. We successfully campaigned for a substation to be moved to provide room for better tree screening. We worked with communities to develop and agree better underground cable routing with National Grid.

This is what we mean when we talk about SHAPING development. Our objective is to bring forward better ways to achieve what the energy industry proposed without desecrating our beautiful landscapes. Here’s an example of how we achieve this:

National Grid’s formal consultation on the Bramford to Twinstead Project ended on Monday March 21st 2022. After running a series of public meetings during the current consultation period, Stour Valley Underground completed development of their proposals for improvements to NG’s plans.  On 18th March, SVU published its response to National Grid’s consultation. Our response document is available via Facebook as a downloadable illustrated 12 page PDF document  HERE.

Stour Valley Underground has a long history and we have a dozen years of experience campaigning. Over these years we have developed many proposals. Perhaps the most important was our 2010 proposal for an undersea UK Ringmain to take all of the coastal generated energy around the coasts to deliver it direct to the energy hubs that serve our population centres. This is the only way to prevent ever more pylons across our landscape to reach users that live in other regions of the country. Now, a dozen years later, campaigners, councils and MP’s from across the region are lobbying for an undersea solution. The link to our original proposal is at the bottom of this page.

Our latest news bulletin can be found on this website HERE.

PYLONS: puzzled by what all the fuss is about? The Suffolk / Essex border hosts the beautiful countryside that inspired some of the world’s most celebrated landscape painters, most notably Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable. In 2009, electricity transmission system operator, National Grid proposed to despoil the natural beauty of these internationally significant heritage assets with yet more pylons. The story so far is available here>>>

Way back in 2009, SVU started publishing regular newsletters that were distributed to hundreds of email addresses. Now in 2021, we feel that Facebook is a more appropriate approach. So in January we launched a Stour Valley Underground page        and a linked Facebook group of the same name       . The page provides news updates and shared articles related to our campaign. The Group adds access to files and allows membership to ensure you don’t miss anything and can contribute yourself.


OH NO! January 2019 sees National Grid decide to progress the project and the community prepares to defend its lovely landscape...

What are SVU doing now? National Grid may have put their pylons project on hold in 2013 but our work goes on. Currently we are working to ensure that both National Grid’s proposals and the local authority’s positions on them are fully compliant with the government’s National Planning Policy Framework. Currently they are not. This simple article explains what we are doing, why it’s important and why we are doing it now. Find out more here >>>

PROJECT ON HOLD: On Thursday 14th November 2013 National Grid announced that they are shelving the Bramford to Twinstead Connection Project due to changes and delays to the connection dates for new generators around East Anglia. They now say that instead of needing the connection around 2017, they will not not need it until the early 2020‘s. This suggests that the project has been put back around 5 years. Accordingly, the proposal for a new substation in north Essex has also been shelved so we can all breathe a sigh of relief. But this is not victory: this is a stay of execution. 

The time between now and any future resumption of the project will provide us with time to make an even stronger case for more environmentally acceptable solutions that avoid blighting valuable landscapes with overhead lines and new substations.

This also makes valuable time available to work toward the proposed extension of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to include our local landscapes. Succeeding with this would bring protections and benefits that would not only help us defend our countryside from unsightly industrialisation, but also potentially make funding available to remove some existing eyesores.

SVU offer their heartfelt thanks to all who have supported us over the last few years. 

The work we have done is far from wasted and SVU will be ready if we need to regroup to fight another day. In the mean while, if you want to help keep new pylons out of our countryside, support the extension of the AONB in any way you can: it’s the best way to secure the natural beauty of our area for us and for future generations.

SOLAR FARMS: Stour Valley Underground firmly support the deployment of Solar PV in appropriate locations such as on brown field sites and on rooftops. In keeping with government policy, appropriate locations do not include best and most versatile agricultural land or high value and heritage landscapes. SVU has already contested one inappropriately located solar farm proposal. Based on that experience and to support others who seek to protect such countryside, we here provide a toolkit of the relevant ministerial guidance documents along with pointers to applicable planning policy.

Quick links to a decade’s campaign content... 

Recent first - earlier below

National Grid’s Substation Location Decision

Also published the same day was a document from UK Power Networks that confirms our argument that some substation option costings presented to the public were grossly exaggerated and misleading. In one case UKPN had included over £40million for work that is already part of their business plan irrespective of NG’s current project. Read UKPN’s document here. UPDATE: On 30th August, National Grid revised their consultation feedback report in light of complaints from both Essex County and Braintree District councils. Find the revised version here.

On the 28th August 2013 and after much delay, National Grid announced that despite the comprehensive opposition of local communities and local government at all levels, they persist in wanting to build a new electricity substation at the A131 site NG representatives said they would back in 2011, before the consultation. The consultation has changed absolutely nothing. SVU have published an initial response which is available here. National Grid’s press release is available here, its letter to residents here and their response to the consultation here.

Spring 2013 found us fighting a proposal from National Grid to build a new substation at the gateway to the culturally significant landscapes of the Suffolk / Essex border. 

On April 8th 2013, National Grid’s Substation Consultation closed. SVU’s response is an evidence based document that again presses for the solution that has full local government support: upgrade Braintree substation and connect it to the distribution grid via underground cables, then remove all redundant pylons. We also show that this has been a consultation to a predetermined outcome beset significant flaws including wildly inflated costs for options the grid companies don’t want. This is not opinion - we present hard facts here>>>.

SVU’s preferred Braintree reinforcement solution instead of a new substation receives strong support from county councils. Read Essex’s responses here and here and Suffolk’s here

On 11th February 2013, National Grid (NG) announced their wish to build a new substation in north Essex. Stour Valley Underground have already proposed economically sensible, environmentally preferable alternatives that avoid this. Our response to NG’s press release is available here. Building on our success in having underground cabling and better cable routing adopted by NG, we continue to press for better solutions. Our latest newsletter presents our case here.

In mid 2012 National Grid published their response to our underground cable proposals. They have agreed with our proposals to route underground cables to a more southerly point but that’s about it. Intransigence suffuses the rest of their response and their reasoning is deeply flawed as we will proceed to demonstrate. Our press release on this is available here and press coverage here

Willing to pay?There is a key question we need to answer in our quest for more environmentally preferable electricity transmission solutions: are the people of Britain willing to pay the additional costs involved involved in putting the power lines out of sight? Recent research for National Grid shows the answer to be a resounding YES. This non technical article gives a glimpse of the implications of this research and provides access to the research report here.

The energy regulator, Ofgem has been conducting a consultation on the public’s willingness to pay for undergrounding. Our non technical article (see above) contains some remarkable claims. For those who want to see the technical argument that underpins our views, our response document to OFGEM and NG should provide valuable reading. Find our consultation response here>>>

A Step Forward: National Grid have announced that they propose to put their new connection UNDERGROUND through the Stour Valley and the Dedham Vale AONB. This means that somewhat more than 1/4 of the route will be undergrounded. For many that is far from the decision they sought and the fight goes on for a more environmentally acceptable solution. SVU see this decision as a platform on which to build and outline the campaign to comehere.

Underground Cabling Decision:National Grid announced their underground cabling decisions and released their Connection Options Report in support of them on 29th May 2012. Having taken way more than 2 years to develop their ideas, NG gave us 2 months to respond to this bulky and complex document. People and organisations across the area have risen to the challenge and have collectively provided a comprehensive and compelling case for undergrounding the whole route. Stour Valley Underground’s full response to National Grid is available here.

RESPONSES: National Grid gave local authorities, councils, residents and amenity groups just 8 weeks to respond to their Connection Options Report which contains the reasoning and evidence that underpins their limited underground connection proposals. These bodies carefully examined NG’s report and have responded to it in depth. Together they deliver a detailed and damning inditement of the failure of National Grid to gather sufficiently comprehensive data to support their decisions. The responses are available here>>>

Substation developments UK Power Networks have released their document proposing and making the case for a new substation to be built in the Twinstead / Castle Heddingham area. Having not properly considered the environmentally preferable and economic underground cable option we put to them, they opt for the fast and dirty solution of blighting the beautiful north Essex countryside with a 50 metre tall eyesore. As ever, SVU will come forward with better solutions that preserve our high value landscape. Read more here>>>>

UK Power Networks Substation Documents: The publication of UK Power Networks need case and proposal document was originally notified to councillors and community forum members by National Grid who provided links to UKPN’s website. Rather unhelpfully, UKPN have changed their website and the documents have been moved here and here. To enable you to reliably access the main document, we have installed a copy permanently in our webspace and it is available here>>>

Stour Valley Underground distributed its initial outline response to National Grid’s undergrounding proposals on 12th June 2012. The online version is available here and covers our proposals for underground cable routing, areas to be undergrounded, cable end locations, substation and redundant pylon issues. We also list the significant benefits to be derived from our proposals to landscape and wildlife areas. We finish with an image that sums up the whole issue. Start here >>>

An Underground Cable Alternative to a Substation. National Grid propose to build a vast ugly substation in the countryside of north Essex. We believe that an environmentally and economically preferable alternative solution is available: an underground cable to supply the power. We explore this proposition and show that it can bring huge benefits at little additional cost.Read more here >>>

In an astonishing development, we discover that Gainsborough painted Wooded Landscape in response to what he perceived as a technological threat. Read morehere>>>.

Preserving A Threatened Masterpiece. Stour Valley Underground entered 2012 working to ensure the preservation of a uniquely intact view once painted by Thomas Gainsborough. His painting Wooded Landscape with Herdsman Seated hangs in the Gainsborough’s House Museum in Sudbury. Now you can stand on the very spot that inspired this work of art. We tell you how to find it and just why we must stop National Grid despoiling this culturally significant landscape with pylons here >>>

Visualising a Substation; National Grid are currently proposing to build a substation in the north Essex countryside between west of Castle Heddingham and Twinstead and will shortly be holding project consultation events across the affected area. We visit Eaton Socon Substation to help us visualise what might be built locally and here present a gallery of images to help you judge for yourself >>>

Thinking the unthinkable - a third line of pylons might be needed by 2021!National Grid’s figures clearly show that by this date even the upgraded grid they propose could run out of capacity and just one new gas fired powerstation or large windfarm proposal in the region will precipitate another overhead line proposal from National Grid. Read more here.Gas Insulated underground power Lines (GIL) in a tunnel could save our landscape from this. Read more here.

Light relief: When Secretary of State, Chris Huhne headed up the Pylon Design Competition we saw it as a rather pointless diversionary trick. The winning “T” pylon design would cost more and would require 5 “T” pylons to replace 3 of the current ones. Bringing no aesthetic benefits, if used they could raise the cost of overhead lines to match that of underground lines! Maybe Chris Huhne was having a laugh, so we have responded in kind here >>>

Our landscape has inspired some of our Nation’s cultural treasures but National Grid want to blight this iconic countryside with ugly infrastructure. In our Summer - Autumn Newsletter we look at better ways, and at doublespeak from National Grid. We also show that the urgency that precipitated National Grid’s proposals is dissipating but that current law might still lead to the unnecessary blighting of our valuable landscape through pointless haste. <<< Find out more here 

Time to write to your MP! Stour Valley Underground’s third annual public meeting heard numerous calls for letters to go from all concerned constituents to their MP, calling for them to support Tessa Munt MP’s Private Members Bill that will enable underground power lines to become the preferable electricity transmission technology in valuable landscapes. Find our letter writing kit here>>>

It was standing room only at Stour Valley Underground’s third annual public meeting at Wickham St Paul Village Hall, Essex. With impassioned addresses by Local Government at all levels and with support from local MP, Brooks Newmark and all of the area’s campaign groups, this meeting heard presentations from SVU that provided local communities with much relevant information that National Grid have never put before them. Read More here...

Local Issues. National Grid are currently holding project information events across the consultation area. Past experience tell us that they won’t be telling you the whole story and we are sure you’ll want to ensure that you’re not mislead. If you’re going to one of these events and want to know more about our local issues than National Grid will be telling you, why not read our preparatory notes. They are not too long or technical and are available here >>>>

July 2011: National Grid’s Corridor decision is as predicted and we list 10 things wrong with it. Returning to issues that directly effect the communities that begat SVU, we lament the fact that National Grid’s plans fail to minimise pylon blighting and that redundant pylons will NOT as promised, be removed from our landscape. The removal of these pylons was pitched to Twinstead residents as a benefit of a corridor 2 decision. Read this sorry story and more here.

June 2011: Decision time! This newsletter predicts the pylon corridor decision National Grid will announce next month and its implications. We look at the pylon threat to the Waveney Valley and also at the final draft of the Government’s energy policy and ask, did we make a difference? Lastly, our main article looks at the Europe wide Supergrid and explains why it is key to our energy and economic future while at the same time freeing us from the threat of a plague of pylons. Read more here>>>>

May 2011 Newsletter. If grid reinforcement is indeed needed between Bramford and Twinstead then we advocate putting it underground. National Grid have said that this would cost £600-900 million. In our latest newsletter we reveal that the water industry can complete a similar scale project in the same landscape for £25 million. Our latest newsletter looks at this project and asks why it supposedly costs the electricity industry so much more? For this and much, much more, go here.

April 2011 Newsletter: Following on from our most recent meeting with National Grid, we ask: do their proposals really address the grid security issue? We argue that the answer is NO and show why the real solution is still to put the transmission lines underground. We also put forward a proposition for a full scale trial of the underground transmission technology we advocate. Read more in our April newsletter by clicking here >>>>

Supergrid to the rescue?... Could the Supergrid rid our landscape of the threat of yet more pylons? Can we create an energy future that does not despoil the environment with the very technology we are employing to save it? We show the answer can be YES but it's all down to timing. Click here for our March Newsletter which looks at the effect the timing of such developments has on whether or not we end up with more pylons.

2011 sees more support for the undersea grid...

Suffolk County Council (SCC) organise the National Symposium on Future Energy Networks in London and come out strongly for a sub-sea grid for the windfarms. We contribute to the 2nd consultation on the Government’s National Policy Statements (NPS). Read the news on all this here, our NPS response here or about the Symposium on SCC’s website here or Groton Pylon Alliances erudite view here. SCC have now released the proceedings of the day which we are glad to provide a link for here. SCC have also released a 6 point list of conclusions drawn from the symposium which are also presented here.

Seeing the bigger picture: we present evidence of a region wide threat to our environment from the energy industry. We have been presenting this broader view of the pylons issue to the County Councils of the Eastern Region. 

<<< Click on the icon to see our compelling evidence for yourself or read this newsletter covering all the latest developments.

Stour Valley Underground’s consultation Stage 1 formal response to National Grid’s proposals for an over ground powerline between Bramford and Twinstead was delivered to National Grid by email at the close of the first part of the consultation process on 28th February 2010. Click our logo for the full text.

Big questions answered:- How much do underground cables really cost?How should the windfarms be connected to the grid?Is underground cabling affordable?Can you put a price on the environmental impact of a pylon? A great number of developments have occurred in the last month so why not go to our news pages to find out the latest or check to see if our sums add up >>>

Undergrounding the power lines is for many of us a logical way to remove the blight of pylons in the countryside. Here we look at an underground cabling strategy designed to meet the needs of most of the inhabitants of the consultation area.

 <<< Just click the logo to see our draft proposals.

What’s wrong with National Grid’s pylons consultation? Rather a lot and we in SVU have linked up with activists from the Colne-Stour Countryside Association, the Dedham Vale Society and Bury not Blight to present a fulsome and comprehensive rejection of the validity of the consultation process that should have made it possible for you to develop informed opinions about the best way to reinforce the electricity grid. Read our joint submission to IPC here or click the logo for SVU’s 14 point list of what’s wrong.

2010 UK RINGMAIN PROPOSAL: An undersea grid? Read our exciting proposals for a power distribution strategy that is based on building a ring main around the coast of Britain. It is a strategy that works for all of us and provides a road map to a pylon free UK by 2040. Just click the logo to see our draft proposals >>>>

UNDERSEA GRID: Back in 2010 SVU proposed an undersea UK Ringmain to connect the windfarms, energy users in the UK and the UK to Europe. In 2021, the Government Minister says that the argument for this is won. But without an appropriate regulatory regime, it won’t be delivered. So we are liaising with local MPs to press for urgent regulatory review. You can read our letter to James Cleverly MP here. It explains what we are asking for and why.