SVU Newsletter

July 2011 

The major issue for the people of the Essex parishes of Twinstead, Gestingthorpe, Wickham St Paul and Castle Heddingham this month is whether of not the electricity industry will remove pylons made redundant by National Grid’s project from the landscape in order to minimise pylon blighting.

SVU Newsletter for July 2011

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Frustrating times and lots of Key Issues This Month

•National Grid's Bramford to Twinstead Corridor Announcement

•National Grid Fail to Limit Pylon Blighting: A Very Local Issue

•What's wrong with the corridor decision

•Tessa Munt MP puts a Bill before Parliament to make undergrounding more likely

•Parliament is told that National Grid undermined the IET/KEMA Underground Costs Research

•Stour Valley Underground gets mentioned in the House of Commons

•Suffolk County Council invite us to contribute to the Waveny Valley pylon awareness event

National Grid's Bramford to Twinstead Pylon Corridor Announcement

As we have predicted in past SVU Newsletters, National Grid announced on Tuesday of this week that their preferred corridor for yet more 46 metre tall pylons is corridor 2 which essentially follows the existing 400kv pylon route from the Bramford area, through the Dedham Vale AONB (Constable Country) and on through Gainsborough Country to the Twinstead Tee pylon. National Grid intend to take down the smaller UK Power Networks owned 132kV power line and pylons from Bramford to the Tee and replace them with their own taller 400kV ones. Having taken down the 132kV line which powers the Clare area in Suffolk, National Grid will have to re-energise the line further along with a substation to be placed somewhere to the west of Twinstead.

This has lead to a totally unexpected negative issue for the village of Twinstead itself.

As you know, Stour Valley Underground has stridently avoided nimby arguments and is not about to start promoting them now. We feel sure that many of our original members and supporters suspect that the SVU steering group has strayed a long way from its roots and our local issue in its quest to prevent further blighting of our landscape with pylons. This however could not be further from the truth. We have indeed delved into what is a national if not international issue but always in the interests of getting the right result for everyone, including our local community. But now an issue locatedright on our doorstephas arisen that we need to address.

From National Grid's corridor announcement and its attendant press release we have realised that assurances about the removal of redundant pylons given to Twinstead residents are to be reneged on by National Grid. In order to present to you the same information as that which we have provided to the newspaper and TV newsrooms, what follows is copy of our recent press release.


Twinstead villagers ask why National Grid are reneging on assurances given at their pylon consultation event?

On Tuesday, National Grid announced its preferred pylon route between Bramford in Suffolk and Twinstead in Essex to be Corridor 2 which brings with it the prospect of a large sub station somewhere west of Twinstead in Essex. By National Grid (NG)engineer's own admission, such substations emit a loud, hard to mitigate 100hz hum that premeates buildings, travels round corners and will add a constant drone to this otherwise quiet and peaceful area on the north Essex border. Visually and acoustically, this substation will have a huge negative impact on the environment of Twinstead.

But the residents of the village did think that this would be offset to some extent by the removal of the pylons that run closest to their homes, and with good reason: National Grid promised it.

If and when the substation is built to the west of Twinstead and the 132kv pylons are taken down between Bramford and the Twinstead Tee, the potentially kilometres long power line that remains between the Tee and the substation will become dead and the pylons redundant, as National Grid admit. This is the line of pylons that run closest to villagers homes. Back in 2009 when the pylon consultation events were taking place, National Grid's PR consultant,Donna Burnelltold villager Paul Constable specifically that a benefit to the village of a corridor 2 decision would be the removal of the 132kv pylons behind their houses. Clearly this was not a benefit they were in fact in any position to commit to.

In a telephone conversation after this weeks corridor announcement,National Grid's Donna Burnell stated that company considered the pylons in question to be a UK Power Networks asset and had no intention of taking them down. UK Power Networks press officer Phil Spiby later released a non committal press statement on behalf of the company prefaced with "I would emphasize that we are currently working on details for a solution with the National Grid, discussions are ongoing and plans are not yet finalised so it is not possible to comment further on what the final outcome will be". However it is astonishing that the minimisation of pylon blighting is not at the top of both NG & UKPN's agendas given the public's response to the Bramford to Twinstead project proposals. Twinstead villager Jane Howson wanted to know "why has National Grid been so irresponsible in not tying this issue up with the rest of the project if only to deliver on assurances given at their "Consultation Event"?

Councillor David Holland, Chair of pressure group, Stour Valley Underground said "National Grid have plainly failed to take steps to minimise the pylon blighting that will result from their overhead line project. Reneging on the commitment to remove the pylons is just another example of the misinformation we have had to deal with since National Grid put their project proposals before us. The gross exaggeration of the cost of undergrounding power lines is yet another example. Stour Valley Underground and our colleagues in the coalition of amenity groups will continue to strive to have an appropriate 21st century solution implemented here if indeed a grid upgrade is needed. That solution would be underground because that is now the most economic and environmentally acceptable technology available and our evidence to support this assertion can be found".

A Grey Day in Twinstead: the leftmost line of pylonsrunning behind villagers homesare to become redundant but will remain to continue blighting the landscape under National Grid's plans. Photo: Copyright free by David Holland for SVU.


From this it is hopefully plain to see that this is not a case of our trying to foist anything on someone else rather than ourselves. There is nothing nimby about working to ensure that any unnecessary pylon blighting that results from a new project is removed as part of that project. We are not even trying to force another project cost on the transmission companies. The price for removal would be small as the scrap value of the metals involved would cover much if not all of the cost.


10 things that are wrong with National Grid's Consultation and Decision

Past SVU Newsletters have covered in depth, what we know to be wrong with National Grids corridor decision and the process that has lead to it. For brevity, here is a short list of the ten worst flaws in their thinking:-

1.The initial review of connection options was utterly inadequate and missed obvious ones such as underground from Bramford to Twinstead

2.Little account was taken of newer, proven transmission technologies such as GIL, nor was the potential of offshore connection fully evaluated

3.The case for the proposed connection has not been adequately made and the reasons for needing it have changed repeatedly

4.Future offshore and European developments might quickly make the connection an expensive white elephant

5.Environmental impact was not considered from the outset and thus National Grid purposefully skewed the consultation toward pylons

6.No local economic impact or environmental detriment value assessment has been made to inform the decision

7.National Grid only looked at up front costs and not whole life costs: no independent data was made available on the costs and economics of alternatives to pylons

8.National Grid have mislead the public with, for example, gross exaggerations of the costs of undergrounding

9.National Grid's overall business case has yet to be accepted by the government's energy industry regulator

10.National Grid have failed to take account of public "willingness to pay", a requirement set by the regulator and an annual cost that is known to be very small


Tessa Munt MP puts a bill before Parliament to make undergrounding more likely

Former Sudbury, Suffolk resident and now Somerset MP, Tessa Munt has put a 10 Minute Rule Bill Before Parliament that is designed to make underground and undersea connections more likely by amending the Electricity Act. In essence her bill would replace the acts clear preference for lines on pylons with a preference for the most whole life economic and environmentally favourable technology. The bill is supported by a good number of MP's including Tim Yeo, MP for South Suffolk. You can view Tessa's presentation of the bill at by winding the video forward to time 15:41


Parliament is told that National Grid undermined the IET/KEMA undergrounding cost research

Parliament has been told that the IET/KEMA study of the cost of undergrounding powerlines has failed to produce a report due to a lack of evidence from National Grid amongst others. National Grid say in recent publications that some form of report will come out later in the year. We have seen the scant and uncorroborated evidence that National Grid sent to KEMA and can only conclude that there is little likelihood of any meaningful outcome from this Government instigated research. In any case, National Grid intend to plough on with their consultations whether or not the report eventually materialises.


Stour Valley Underground mentioned in Parliament

We would like to thank Tessa Munt MP for recognising in her speech to Parliament, the contribution Stour Valley Underground along with all the other groups have made to progressing the pylons issue. We wish her success with her bill and assure her that we will be continuing to make every contribution we can.


Suffolk County Council invite SVU to make a presentation at the the forthcoming pylon awareness even in the Waveney Valley

This Friday sees the first public event as the Waveney Valley on the Norfolk / Suffolk border awakens to the coming threat of pylons through its flat landscape, National Park and AONB. Stour Valley Underground has been asked by Suffolk County Council to relate our experiences in developing our group and campaign at the event entitled "Pylons in your Parish?". One way or another we feel that the Waveney Valley connection proposals and decisions are likely to set precedents that impact other pylon projects. If a grid connection through such flat, economically important and highly designated landscape as that between Lowestoft and Diss is not seen as appropriate for undergrounding by National Grid, what landscape is?