Pylons through Dunton Hills Garden Village would cause ‘significant harm’ say councils

A high-voltage power line planned to be built through a vital part of Brentwood’s housing plan would cause significant harm to people’s needs to access housing in the borough.

Both Brentwood Borough Council and Essex County say they remain opposed to National Grid’s plans for a 400kv power line through Dunton Hills Garden Village because changes to the route do not go far enough.

Essex County Council says it would have expected the 2023 preferred route – detailed in the Design Development Report published in June – to have been informed by Brentwood Council’s local development plan that has Dunton Hills Garden Village as a centrepiece.

The planned Dunton Hills Garden Village, DHGV, which is expected to see the first 1,650 homes, of a total of 4,000, to be built in the next 11 years, is a vital part of the newly adopted Brentwood local plan accounting for around a third of the total housing needs of the borough between 2016 and 2033.

Developers CEG, the main promoter of the site, has submitted an outline planning application to Brentwood Borough Council for the £780million development over 226 hectares. There will be schools, healthcare, community and sports facilities, shops, services, new and improved infrastructure and around half of the site will be green space.

In response to the Design Development Report Essex County Council says the revised route – to the eastern part of the corridor – does not contain “sufficient mitigation” for it to withdraw its objection.

It has asked for cabling to be placed underground if the route cannot be moved further away from the planned housing.

It said: “Essex County Council considers that the 2023 preferred route would materially undermine the local plan-making processes in both Brentwood and Basildon to the significant harm of local people needing to access affordable, high-quality housing.”

It added: “Essex County Council considers that should there be no reasonable alternative to the 2023 preferred route whereby the land allocated for DHGV is avoided altogether, sufficient mitigation would require the use of underground cabling.”

Brentwood Borough Council also says National Grid’s preferred route of the transmission line has the potential to “seriously undermine the delivery of the allocation and its legacy as a garden community”.

It adds: “It’s not simply the potential reduction of the available development area that is of concern, although this is one aspect (that cannot be fully quantified at this stage), it is the potential for the routing of the proposed overhead transmission line to impede upon the ability of DHGV to align with the garden community principles upon which it was allocated.”

Along with Essex County Council, it wants a reason why National Grid has ruled out the potential for undergrounding for this section of the route while asking for cost estimates in the face of estimates of costs of settling claims for damages – including legal expenses.

National Grid has said it is looking to route the pylons to the eastern edge of the preferred corridor “to reduce interaction with the Dunton Hills Garden Village proposal”.

National Grid says the majority of the Dunton Hills Garden Village proposals (based on an indicative layout provided in feedback) are set back by around 80m from an existing high-pressure gas pipeline, which itself is some distance from the eastern edge of the consultation corridor.

It says there is sufficient space to allow for an alignment that is consistent with the rules for the routeing of new high voltage overhead transmission lines without reducing the available development area.

Brentwood Borough Council said that “such a simplified analysis fails to demonstrate National Grid’s understanding of the sensitivities, complexities and principles underpinning this strategically important garden village allocation”.

It adds: “It’s not simply the physical impact of the overhead power line, but its potential to limit usable open space within its easement strip, which is of concern. Central to the garden village is its network of multifunctional open space, providing opportunities for sport, physical activity and numerous wider benefits. The overhead line will place a limit on the versatility of this space, further eroding this strategic objective.”

National Grid in a statement as part of the Design Development Report said: “National Grid recognises that there are still technical and environmental issues which require further work in order to develop the 2023 preferred draft alignment further.

“During the coming months, further studies will be undertaken along the 2023 preferred draft alignment including environmental and other site-based surveys which will further inform the location of the EACN substation and CSE compounds, pylon positions and underground cable route (particularly at difficult crossings) and the location of areas required temporarily for the construction of the Project.

“Feedback from the 2023 non-statutory consultation will also inform this more detailed work.

“The project will be the subject of environmental impact assessments and there will be ongoing consultation with stakeholders, interested parties and members of the public.

“As with previous stages, our initial decisions will be backchecked in the light of the findings of these further studies and assessments and new material information.

“National Grid expects to undertake a statutory consultation on its proposals in Spring 2024 and will be providing preliminary environmental information at that time.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter