Councils could form joint campaign to combat National Grid power line plans

Essex is in line to join forces with two other East Anglian councils to try to overturn controversial plans for a 180km-long power line linking Norfolk Suffolk and Essex.

Essex County Council unanimously passing a motion that decries National Grid’s plans comes amidst a group of East Anglian MPs calling for a consultation to allow residents to be given a chance to “express a meaningful choice”.

Essex County Council’s motion said that there has been insufficient consideration of alternative approaches including an offshore link undersea. National Grid has said the alternative of offshore power cables was not “technically feasible or economic”.

Councillor David King, the deputy Lib Dem group leader who is also leader at Colchester Borough Council, said “We are united in this. There is no division on this is the wrong proposition. And the worse of it all is how poorly this has been done by a body with rights that no other have.

“With that does go responsibility. Strategic infrastructure – we are dreadful at it in the UK. Trying to do it better should have our support and it deserves our support if it is done with a sense of responsibility.”

Essex County Council leader Kevin Bentley said: “I described this proposal when I first saw it as a division member but also as leader of Essex County Council as utter madness.

“Destroying our countryside with more pylons and undergrounding in one of the most beautiful parts of Essex in the Dedham Vale just seems nonsense to me.

“I do applaud the idea and the concept of increasing electricity supply in terms of EV charging- that is absolutely the right thing to do but not at the cost of destroying our countryside.

“There is a better alternative and that is going around the coast and that is a much better option.

“Our colleagues in Suffolk passed a very similar motion and next week our colleagues in Norfolk are debating the same thing. Should all these motions be successful then I propose we join together and we campaign against this.

“We must make National Grid understand that what they are trying to do is laudable in the concept and very bad in the execution.”

National Grid’s controversial East Anglia GREEN project would see a line of 50-metre high structures run from Dunston, just south of Norwich, to Tilbury in Essex. The letter, signed by 14 MPs, including Norfolk MPs George Freeman, Jerome Mayhew, Richard Bacon and Duncan Baker, was sent to Greg Hands, the Government minister responsible for energy.

The utility company says the scheme is needed to build more capacity in the UK’s power network, to help the country achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Zac Richardson, National Grid’s company director of new infrastructure, has previously said the firm does not believe it is “technically feasible or economic” for the line to go offshore.

A letter from the group of MPs said: “National Grid are justifying going undersea off the north precisely to protect communities in the way we are denied even discussing in East Anglia.

“We are sure you will agree that this represents a gross unfairness, with one approach in one part of the UK, one in another – and yet all our constituents are bill payers, funding this infrastructure, and surely deserve equal treatment.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter