'Metal monstrosities' - Opposition to new East Anglia power line grows

Electricity pylons. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Campaigners argue that the new power line should go offshore, rather than being carried via overhead cables - Credit: PA

A plan to build a new overhead electricity line from Norwich to the Thames Estuary has come up against opposition from thousands of residents across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

National Grid began consulting last month on its ‘East Anglia GREEN’ proposal to build a new line of pylons from Dunston, just south of Norwich, to Tilbury in Essex.  

The utility company has argued the line is necessary to build more capacity in the UK’s power network, which they say is needed to help the country achieve its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

This is due to the increasing energy being generated by offshore wind, and National Grid say East Anglia’s current pylons, which date from the 1960s, cannot cope with it. 

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

But a campaign group opposing the plans and calling for the entire route to go offshore has already been established - and is quickly gathering pace. 

By Monday (May 16) afternoon, almost 6,000 people had signed a petition calling for the project to go offshore instead. 

Rosie Pearson, campaign coordinator for the Essex Suffolk Norfolk Pylons action group, said: “I think the instant reaction of everybody is what an old-fashioned, destructive project this is for beautiful landscapes. Immediately, it’s the visual impact. 

“East Anglia is lovely, it’s rural, it’s got beautiful, historic villages and buildings.

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“These 50-metre [high] metal monstrosities will just cut through landscapes, literally through the heart of East Anglia actually, so that’s definitely people’s prime concern.” 

In addition, Ms Pearson said there were a range of worries about the impact on wildlife, with the cutting down of trees and the risk of so-called bird strikes, in which birds fly into the cables. 

She added: “What we’ve got is a proposal where you’ve got such limited information… 

“They haven’t given us any of the background information we need to be able to understand whether it is the best proposal. It could be - I don’t think it is - but it could be, but we don’t know.

"They haven't set out the socioeconomic impact, the environmental impact, the cost breakdowns.”

Rosie Pearson

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

Ms Pearson said her group was in support of an idea put forward by Harwich and North Essex MP, Bernard Jenkin, to have the new power line incorporated into an offshore grid. 

Mr Jenkin said the current proposal was a “non-starter”, adding: "What we cannot have is cheap and cheerful patchwork solutions”.

The pylons would run parallel to and west of the railway line to London, exiting from Norfolk into Suffolk by passing between Bressingham and Roydon, near Diss.

Forncett St Mary resident Martin Starkie said he had already succeeded in attracting some 130 people to his campaign against the pylons across about 10 south Norfolk villages. 

Martin Starkie

Martin Starkie spoke with BBC Radio Four's Today programme about his opposition to the proposals - Credit: Supplied by Martin Starkie

He said: “It was an immense shock to receive the mailing out of the blue last month, to find that we were to be subjected, if the proposals went ahead as presented, to an enormous run of 50m high pylons, with cables going between them, running right through the middle of our villages.”

He added that the National Grid’s publicity materials for the project consisted of “photographs of beautifully unspoiled fields and countryside, with families happily hiking through, with not a sign of a pylon anywhere in site” and that because only one option was being proposed, residents were “not being consulted, but insulted”. 

Responding, a National Grid spokeswoman said: “Growth in energy generated from offshore wind is a key part of achieving net zero and National Grid needs to rewire the network so we can power every home with clean, green, renewable energy.

"The National Policy Statements set out that overhead lines will often be appropriate when we are developing new proposals like this, and therefore, our starting point will be to consider new overhead lines.

“Planning policy recognises that there will be some places where overhead lines are not appropriate, for example, at particularly sensitive locations. For this reason we are proposing underground cables where the route crosses the Dedham Vale Area of Natural Beauty [on the Suffolk-Essex border].

Forncett St Mary's Church which was made redundant in 1985. Photo: Denise BradleyCopy: Adam Gret

Forncett St Mary's Church which was made redundant in 1985. Photo: Denise Bradley Copy: Adam Gretton For: EDP/EN ©Archant Photographic 2010 01603 772434 - Credit: Denise Bradley

“We are working with government and stakeholders to ensure all energy infrastructure is designed and coordinated considering economic, environmental and community impacts.

“We are in the early stages of developing the East Anglia GREEN project, with further detailed work to be done as we refine our proposals.

“We are asking for feedback from local communities on our proposed route and any local information will be welcomed.”

Asked on the BBC’s Today programme why the pylons had to go overland rather than under the sea and offshore, Zac Richardson, National Grid’s director of new infrastructure, said: “We don’t believe that’s technically feasible or economic, unfortunately, so some infrastructure is required onshore.”

Further information about the project, including the chance to have your say on it, can be found via the search function at nationalgrid.com.

The Norfolk Suffolk Essex Pylons action group petition can be seen by visiting tinyurl.com/5duh42bw.

Bressingham Gardens

The owners of Bressingham Gardens - a visitor attraction west of Diss - are among those to have expressed opposition to the plans. 

In a joint statement, Matt, Adrian and Jason Bloom said the pylons would be “nothing short of a disaster” for their business. 

Bressingham Hall and Barns are now available to rent and hire out for special occasions and holiday

Bressingham Hall and Barns are now available to rent and hire out for special occasions and holiday breaks. Matt Bloom who was the builder and renovator of the hall and barns along with his team. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

They said that while they “understand the need for modernisation of transmission routes”, the new line would nonetheless “seriously diminish the visitor experience of the valley and would be visible over a very large swathe of beautiful countryside”.

They called for the route to go underground or offshore instead.