Kent MPs put pressure on National Grid to underground Richborough Connection
PUBLISHED: 09:43 23 September 2015
Julian Brazier and Sir Roger Gale have both asked energy minister Amber Rudd to ensure pylons aren’t used
Two Kent MPs have repeated their demands for National Grid’s new Richborough Connection, to be put underground.
Canterbury MP Julian Brazier, alongside his colleague Sir Roger Gale, have called on the energy minister, Amber Rudd, to ensure the new connection – which will pipe in power from Belgium – is as hidden away as possible.
The new connection could see a string of pylons running from Richborough near Sandwich, to the east of Canterbury where the power will be transferred to National Grid’s existing infrastructure.
The plans though, have brought heavy criticism from those concerned that pylons will have a devastating impact on the surrounding countryside.
Mr Brazier asked energy minister Amber Rudd to ensure National Grid – which looks after power transmission across the UK – would bury the power cables.
He said: “Since the Richborough Connection was announced, Sir Roger and I have opposed plans which threaten to put pylons across east Kent and my constituency. We both took part in the delegation to discuss this with Michael Fallon, when he was a minister in the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
“Aside from placing enormous pylons across the countryside in east Kent, there are several additional serious problems. The first, is that the planned pylons are 46 metres tall, or as tall as the subsidiary towers of Canterbury Cathedral. This will understandably blight one of Britain’s most famous skylines. A second, is that the placement of the pylons could prevent South East Water from proceeding with construction of the Broad Oak Reservoir.
“We have several options in providing energy, but South East Water can only build their reservoir on one location. Avoiding this has led to a route which massively overshadows Broad Oak village in my constituency, with pylons almost surrounding some houses.”
The Tory MP also took aim at the fact the plans would cut through an ancient woodland – so designated due to its age. This type of woodland is often considered an important habitat for many species of animals and plants.
Mr Brazier said: “Another point of serious concern is that the pylons will cut through Kemberland woods in my constituency, which is an ancient woodland with SSSI designation. This will involve a 150 by 32 metre strip removed from the forest to lay the pylons down. Additionally, National Grid have reported that there will need to be a 40 metre ‘safe zone’ around the pylons because of the frequencies emitted by the electrical cabling. This current plan will therefore remove further ancient woodland at a time when we have only 2 per cent of it left, and disturb some protected species within it.”
A spokesman from National Grid said that although it had buried cables elsewhere, it was through a specially funded project which the Richborough Connection would not be able to get cash for.
The spokesman said: “The Visual Impact Provision project is funded by an allowance from energy regulator Ofgem to reduce the visual impact of National Grid’s existing overhead lines. It applies only to existing overhead lines located in Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks. The Richborough Connection isn’t eligible for consideration as it’s a new connection project and isn’t in an AONB or a National Park.
“Our plans for the Richborough Connection are due to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate later this year. We considered placing the cables underground but feel that a carefully designed and routed overhead line using natural screening such as trees and other existing landscape features achieves the right balance between the effect on the local area and the cost on everyone’s electricity bills.
“We are also continuing to work with South East Water to ensure that both their project and ours can proceed successfully.”