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Suffolk/Essex pylon plan put on hold
by National Grid

BBC News Suffolk: 15 November 2013

Campaigners have welcomed National Grid's decision to put its plan for new electricity pylons on the Suffolk/Essex border on hold.

The company planned to build a new 400,000 volt connection covering 17 miles (28 km) by 2017.  It said the connection, which would have included five miles (8 km) underground, would not be needed until the early 2020s now.

The proposed connection would replace the existing, smaller pylons between Bramford near Ipswich and Twinstead in Essex.

BBC 15 November 2013

Click to view full article on BBC News Suffolk

Campaigners in the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale area on the Essex/Suffolk border wanted the connection to be completely underground.

John Foster, from the Essex & Suffolk Coalition of Amenity Groups, said: "We're pleased and it indicates the process was premature and the case was not properly supported.  It leaves the overall issue of how the grid will be developed in this beautiful countryside unresolved.  It's uncertain what will be required in the future in terms of power supply, so we will continue to campaign to ensure power lines can be put underground as much as possible."

Suffolk/Essex: Delight for campaigners as controversial pylon proposal is put on hold
East Anglian Daily Times – Thursday 15 November 2013

A determined four-year fight to stop a swathe of electricity pylons being created across the Suffolk and Essex countryside took a step closer to victory yesterday, as it emerged the project had been put on hold.

Campaigners said the announcement from National Grid that the 400,000 volt electricity connection between Bramford and Twinstead, Essex, was not yet needed meant “common sense had prevailed”.

The firm said that an assessment showed any connection, initially earmarked for 2017, will now not be needed until the early 2020s – which is thought to mainly be down to the delay in the creation of Sizewell C.

EADT 14 November 2013

David Holland, chairman of the Stour Valley Underground group, said: “I am pleased about it because it provides enough time for new technology solutions to come through. I am personally extremely pleased. I think for us at the Twinstead end, this is very good news and allows more time for solutions to be found.”

Peter Eaton, of the Bury Not Blight group, added: “It seems National Grid have seen common sense.

Tim Yeo, South Suffolk MP, who also opposed the pylons, said he was delighted with yesterday’s announcement. He added: “I think this is a real triumph for the persistence and determination of the people who have campaigned.

Click to view the full article on EADT website

Bramford/Twinstead: National Grid to put controversial pylons plans on hold
East Anglian Daily Times – Thursday 14 November 2013

Controversial proposals to install pylons across the Essex and Suffolk countryside have been put on hold, electricity bosses have revealed. 

The original plans had caused controversy - with campaigners strongly opposed and the EADT launching its Stop the Pylons campaign to get the proposed structures put underground.

Public consultation and the application will now take place nearer to the time when the connection is needed.  Brian Smethurst, senior project manager at National Grid, said: “It’s part of our role to connect people to the energy they use and we routinely have to adjust our plans to match those of the generators that we connect to our system. This connection will be paid for through people’s electricity bills so we must ensure we only build equipment when it is needed.

EADT 14 November 2013

James Finch, county councillor for Stour Valley, said: “Today’s announcement is further evidence that the system is broken. That National Grid pursued a scheme for so long which was clearly not needed at this time is a farce. National Grid’s decision to suspend the project is therefore a victory not only for common sense, but for the people of Suffolk.  Hopefully this decision is an indication that they are beginning to listen to what the county council and local people have been saying for years - and that equally, therefore, they have taken on board that any of their schemes in Suffolk should be entirely underground.”

Click to view the full article on EADT website

Bramford-Twinstead connection project to be put temporarily on hold until later date
National Grid Press Release November 2013

A proposed 400,000 volt electricity connection between Bramford, near Ipswich, and Twinstead in Essex is now needed later than originally planned, according to National Grid, following updated information from power generation companies.

National Grid has published a report – the Bramford-Twinstead Need Case 2013 - which explains the changes to proposed power generation projects. This can be found on the project website at:

Click to view the full press release (pdf 57Kb)

Response by Dedham Vale Society to National Grid’s Connection Options Report

The Dedham Vale Society has submitted its response to National Grid’s Connection Options Report on the Bramford-Twinstead project. Click to view printable pdf

Adam Sedgewick, 31 August 2012

Bravo for nimbyism. What else will keep us from turbines and pylons?
Too much faith – and subsidy – is ploughed into wind power when there are alternatives to butchering Britain

An article by Simon Jenkins in his column for the Guardian about pylons
dated 26 May 2011 can be viewed on the Guardian website.


Submission to DECC review of OFGEM

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has put in hand a review of OFGEM, the regulator for the gas and electricity industries. The Steering Committee of amenity groups opposed to the National Grid proposal for a new 400kV transmission line between Bramford and Twinstead - of which DVS is a member - has made a submission to the review. As the submission explains, the rules to which OFGEM works are crucial to investment decisions on energy infrastructure, and at present neglect issues of visual amenity. Click here to view (pdf 74Kb)

Infrastructure Planning Commission

On 14 June 2010 a meeting took place, arranged by the Infrastructure Planning Commission and chaired by a Commissioner, with representatives of National Grid, Local Authorities and campaigning groups including DVS. The campaigning groups including DVS which oppose any new pylons spoke from a common brief, which is below. It has been sent to the IPC. Click to view (pdf 77Kb)

Pylons Bulletin June 2010

National Grid’s original timetable was for consultation on route corridor options to close at the end of February 2010, to be followed immediately by selection of the route corridor and consultation about detailed alignment. Consultation still continues, nominally about the choice of route corridor, but in practice about the stage prior to that, ie the choice between a new line of pylons from Bramford to Twinstead and the alternatives. NG attempted not to consult about this – the real issue – but have been obliged to do so, thanks to the community groups including DVS which refused to engage on NG’s terms and debate the choice of route corridor. NG now envisage announcing the route corridor in September, but accept that if consultation takes longer, that will be delayed. We continue to work against any new pylons.

All this became clear at a meeting on Monday 14 June organised by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), the body which the previous government created to decide major infrastructure applications such as the Bramford – Twinstead pylons.

There were four groups at the meeting:

  • IPC, led by a Commissioner, Jan Bessell;
  • NG, led by someone new to us, Hector Pearson, Stakeholder Group Manager from corporate HQ (ie not a techie or a consultant like those we had met before);
  • Councils – Suffolk & Essex CCs, Babergh and Braintree DCs;
  • Campaign groups – those opposing all route corridors, so including DVS; and Groton Pylon Alliance (which essentially is concerned only to oppose the northern corridors 3 & 4).

The substantive part of the meeting opened by Charles Aldous – Chairman of the Colne-Stour Countryside Association and a retired senior QC - making a statement on behalf of the groups opposing all route corridors. This attacked both legs of the NG case: the need for new transmission capacity, and the choice between options for new transmission capacity.

On need, NG’s original public case was that new generating capacity – two gas power stations, Sizewell C and offshore wind farms – necessitated new pylons. We now know

  • Sizewell C is delayed by at least four years and will not start generating until 2020 at earliest
  • Wind farms do not add to the need for transmission capacity, because they are an alternative to fossil fuel capacity. If the wind blows, that much less gas power is needed, and vice-versa.
  • Upgrading the existing pylons will provide more than enough capacity for the two new gas power stations.

NG now tell us that their need case is not a matter of capacity, but of security of transmission. This is a highly technical matter, and one which emerged as central to their case only as the original consultation closed. We have had minimal opportunity to probe this issue, but already it appears that there are options to deal with security of supply issues other than by a second line of pylons Bramford – Twinstead. The simplest is simply to turn down the new gas power stations, should there be an incident threatening security of supply. NG were clearly on the back foot on this at the meeting.

On choice, we pointed out that NG had offered no justification for concluding that the lesser cost of pylons outweighed their environmental detriment. They simply said “It’s a judgement call, which it is for NG to make”. We pointed out that their judgement had to be able to stand objective scrutiny ie had to be justified. This seemed an altogether new idea to them. Their stance was that environmental assessment is to be confined to micro-analysis of the choices within a predetermined route corridor.

NG are also on the back foot about making public all the responses they received to their consultation. This is now automatic for responses to local planning applications. NG proposed not to do so, on the grounds that some contained matter personal to the respondent. The IPC then revealed that they will make all consultation responses public if and when the application reaches them (subject to “redacting” – ie blacking-out - any personal material – again, standard practice with local planning applications). We put it to NG that they should therefore make them public now, when they might assist the consultation process.

We shall, with the other groups we have been working with, follow this up.

Click for printable pdf
Adam Sedgewick, 17 June 2010

National Grid proposals for new overhead lines from Bramford to Twinstead

The Dedham Vale Society has made a full and carefully considered response to National Grid's proposals. Click here to view (pdf 92Kb)

DVS has made a similar response - Click here to view (pdf 83Kb) - to the consultation on the government's National Policy Statements, which when approved will govern the working of the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will decide on the National Grid proposals and similar major infrastructure investments such as new power stations and ports

Prior to these submissions, the following items were sent to Parish Councils, Suffolk County Council, and Members of Parliament. Click here to view (pdf 60Kb)

A: Submission by Dedham Vale Society to Suffolk County Council, 28 January 2010
B: Supplementary submission to SCC , 1 February 2010
C: Message to local MPs, 1 February 2010

Taking the Pylon Fight Online
East Anglian Daily Times 4 November 2009

Groups launch websites
More than 600 people have backed the East Anglian Daily Times own campaign and people in affected areas have set up their own groups. The first to go online was the Stour Valley Underground made up from members of parish councils. The Groton Pylon Alliance is the latest group to online.

Click to read the full article (pdf Mb)

Click for their website

National Grid's Public Exhibition Programme

National Grid launch public consultation about proposals to reinforce the high voltage electricity network in south Suffolk and part of Essex. They are holding a series of exhibitions where you will be able to view their proposals, talk to project team representatives and record your comments.
Click here for more information on the public consultation and details of their exhibitions or further details are available on National Grid's website

14 October 2009


Stour Valley Underground, the pressure group

Stour Valley Underground (SVU) has been established following a meeting of councillors from the parish councils representing the communities of Lamarsh, Alphamstone, Middleton, the Hennys and Twinstead. These are the north Essex villages that lie along the sides of the beautiful Stour Valley.

Stour Valley Underground has a highly informative web site available to fully brief on National Grid's proposals and their case for putting all of the power lines underground. This case details an argument that far from being an example of nimby-ism is a case that says yes, we need the power lines, yes they should come down the path of the existing pylon lines, yes they should be in our back yard - UNDERGROUND.

Stour Valley Underground
Click for their website



East Anglian Daily Times launches
'Stop The Pylons' campaign
15 September 2009

The EADT is today launching a campaign to oppose plans for a new line of gigantic power pylons across the beautiful south Suffolk countryside.

National Grid is looking to link an extra set of cables between its substation in Bramford, near Ipswich, and a power junction in Twinstead, near Sudbury.

The energy giant says the extra line is needed to help accommodate increased demand and the future generation of electricity along the Suffolk coast, including a planned new nuclear plant at Sizewell.

Click for East Anlian Daily Times 'Stop the Pylons' campaign where you can register your opinion

However, pylons were first put up across the UK in the 1960s and many feel there should be a more efficient, environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing way of conducting power in the 21st century.

Today, the EADT joins forces with groups representing landowners, the tourist trade and conservationists to call for an alternative way of transporting power to be found.


Click to view the Suffolk Pylon Plan
(pdf 405Kb)

An opportunity to put all high-voltage wires underground

National Grid now has an opportunity to put all the existing high-voltage wires as well as the new ones underground rather than inflict a blight on the countryside that will last for generations, possibly for hundreds of years. Our grandchildren will not thank us if we give up the fight now.

Please let me have your views.

Click to read submitted views

Robert Erith
Chairman, Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley
Project Partnership & President Dedham Vale Society



An opportunity to put all high-voltage wires underground

My view is that it is much too soon to give up on the undergrounding option. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get all the high voltage cables on this route undergrounded. The present wire-scape is a monstrous intrusion into a beautiful part of the Essex/Suffolk landscape and the proposed new line will make it much worse wherever it goes. I believe this is absolutely unacceptable and will meet with massive opposition if this can be properly organised.

National Grid now has an opportunity to put all the existing high-voltage wires as well as the new ones underground rather than inflict a blight on the countryside that will last for generations, possibly for hundreds of years. Our grandchildren will not thank us if we give up the fight now.

NG should look on undergrounding as an opportunity to project itself as an organisation which is environmentally friendly and aware.
Skills and experience doing the work will enable it to acquire cutting edge technology to put cables underground on an ever cheaper and more efficient basis.
Costs must inevitably come down as more undergrounding is put in place and as a result the company should become the leading provider of undergrounding services worldwide.

I realise that the immediate cost of undergrounding is far
higher than putting up new pylons but that is not how we should look at this matter.

The key aspect is the long term cost over say, 100 years, of construction and maintenance compared with construction and maintenance of the overhead option. Overhead wires will inevitably need to be replaced more frequently and are subject to the vagaries of weather and hazard in a way which would not apply to undergrounded cables.

Add these factors to the environmental and safety benefits which loom far larger than they did fifty years ago when the last pylons were erected and there is a compelling case to put to National Grid and to the regulators who will make the final decision.

How this can be financed? Again, I believe that it would be quite possible to raise very long-term finance for undergrounding and amortise it over a great length of time. There are plenty of organisations who would be very interested in long term bonds from a utility with a guaranteed, probably inflation linked, cash-flow for as long as we can foresee.
Current interest rates are at the lowest for decades and it would be an ideal time to structure a major deal for this project.

I think we need technical help from independent sources who could give us an idea of the long-term cost/benefits of undergrounding v overhead and also bankers and fund managers (not just in UK) who would be interested in long-term funding from utilities such as NG. Some understanding of the accounting issues would also be helpful.

In short, there must be a lot of thinking “outside the box “and a lot of support will be
needed along the lines of the excellent campaign by the East Anglian Daily Times which has given a first class lead.

Please let me have your views. I think this is the big one!!!

Robert Erith, 1 October 2009
Chairman, Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley
Project Partnership & President Dedham Vale Society

My view is that we need a Plan B, because it is unlikely we win this one.

The cost of what is probably National Grid's preferred option, replace the existing 132 kv line by a new 400 kv line on the same alignment as the existing 400 kv line, costs them around £45 million including a new sub-station. The cost of undergrounding two 400 kv lines from Bramford to Twinstead, using the lower of the figures they quoted, is around £1,000 million. This would halve if the undergrounding is only from Polstead to Twinstead.

National Grid say that the cost of maintenance of underground cables is higher than that of overhead lines,because of the difficulties of access. They already have considerable experience of undergrounding, because they have to do it in cities.

And, what I'm afraid will weigh heavy with the Infrastructure Planning Commission who will decide this, is that if all new and existing National Grid lines are to go underground in and around the Dedham Vale AONB, the same must hold for the other AONBs and National Parks. Simultaneously with the Bramford to Twinstead project, National Grid have a similar project to connect Hinckley Point C on the Somerset coast. This goes through the Mendip Hills AONB. Undergrounding there on a similar basis would cost around another £500 million. And so on. We can argue that if the environmental benefits outweigh the costs here, they do so in other AONBs - but the costs of undergrounding both new and existing become very large indeed.

At least, if a big campaign of opposition can be generated, we can extract a heavy price in other directions if the wires do go up.

Two constructive points:

  • 4 miles of undergrounding was agreed in the Lower Lea Valley in east London for (a) the Olympics (b) regeneration
  • We should press National Grid on the implications of "smart grids" for their capacity needs. In this context, a "smart grid" is matches the erratic output of wind power (a large part of the rationale for the Bramford to Twinstead link) with the massive increase in electricity storage capacity associated with electric/hybrid cars. So the electricity transmission can be "time-shifted" to periods when the transmission capacity is available, thus not only making best use of the wind power but also of the grid. Maybe this would render the Bramford to Twinstead unnecessary? We should at least ask.

Adam Sedgewick, 1 October 2009