‘Green spaces, green infrastructure and rural landscapes enjoyed for their beauty and tranquillity would be scarred by these pylons’
CPRE Essex has submitted its response to the second non-statutory consultation on National Grid’s proposals to transmit electricity across the unspoilt rural landscapes of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex to Tilbury. Here planner Michael Hand summarises the concerns we have about the so-called East Anglia GREEN scheme.
We question the need for this destructive project and believe that the full range of alternatives has been neither adequately assessed nor properly consulted on.
CPRE Essex appreciates that the UK has to reach net-zero targets and achieve greater energy security by increased use of renewable energy. However, we say that the emphasis should be on technologies that will minimise any adverse impact on productive farmland and the visual quality of tranquil and historic landscapes.
In contrast, NG proposes to transfer the electricity overhead through Essex regardless of the value of the natural and cultural heritage that might be adversely affected. The route chosen through the county crosses the most rural parts, cutting an industrial swathe through farmland, woods, heritage sites and rural communities. Green spaces, green infrastructure and rural landscapes enjoyed for their scenic beauty and tranquillity would be scarred by the 50-metre pylons marching through the countryside.
While welcoming the proposal to underground cables in the Dedham Vale AONB, this overlooks the loss of visual amenity in non-designated valued landscapes.
This is particularly the case in the northern half of the county, where much of the proposed overground route passes through landscape areas that are deemed highly sensitive to change. The landscape here is predominantly rolling, attractive farmland widely appreciated as a resource in its own right.
However, along the proposed route throughout the county as a whole there will be a multitude of specific views that would be adversely impacted – thereby reducing the general visual amenity experienced by local people.
In addition, the setting and backdrop to a number of historic towns and villages in Essex will be potentially threatened by the proposals. These include Ardleigh and Langham (both close to the southern edge of the AONB), Coggeshall (with a number of nationally important Grade I-listed buildings), and the Grade II* landscape of Hylands Park and House.
A member of the Ramblers Association based in Chelmsford has investigated the impact the overland proposal would have on the Public Rights of Way (PRoW) across Essex. The exercise highlights all the PRoW that are within 50m and/or cross the proposed infrastructure.
With a construction period of at least four years, it’s clear that a significant swathe of Essex countryside will be either restricted or inaccessible for those wishing to use the 116 PRoW that are affected. The districts of Colchester and Chelmsford are particularly badly impacted. So too is the Essex Way – a long-distance footpath that will be demeaned by the close proximity of pylons or their presence in the wider landscape. Similarly, the future enjoyment of walkers using the wide networks of PRoW that interact with the line of transmission will be severely compromised.
CPRE Essex expressed its disappointment that NG has not engaged on offshore options in recent public consultation events, simply presenting the pylon run from Norwich to Tilbury as a foregone conclusion.
Instead, we support the feasible and environmentally more acceptable option of developing an integrated offshore grid in the North Sea. The UK already receives energy via undersea cables from several European countries, so it should be entirely feasible to utilise similar cables to link the offshore wind farms within an integrated system, thus minimising any overland pylon connections to shorter routes to the required substations and to overcome the stated difficulties of underwater cables in the Thames estuary.
This offshore option would avoid the industrialisation of landscapes, minimise disruption to amenities and loss of productive farmland, avoid visual intrusion on the settings of historic buildings, remove the need to protect the many archaeological sites long the proposed route and reduce the potential for disruption to energy supplies by cable damage by high winds or bird strikes. Especially in this respect, CPRE Essex supports and endorses the submission of the Pylons East Anglia action group.
The next stage for NG will be a statutory consultation in 2024, followed by submission of its Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate for examination. In the meantime, there will be a review of options by National Grid ESO over the autumn and the results of the government’s Offshore Coordination Support Scheme, plus an independent report commissioned by Essex County Council. CPRE Essex has urged NG to pause this damaging project and await the outcome of these imminent reports.