Chelmsford City Council objects to new power line proposals

July 15, 2022 10:05 AM

electricity pylons

Chelmsford City Council has agreed to strongly object to current proposals for a new National Grid electricity transmission line between Norwich and Tilbury.

A response to the plans, which was approved on 14 July by Policy Board, says that the consultation for this scheme is premature and that all options for transmitting electricity across the region have not yet been fully explored.

Council Leader, Lib Dem Stephen Robinson, commented, "The Conservative Government's electricity strategy relies heavily on generation by turbines in the sea. If they hadn't cut subsidy for homeowners and communities to generate their own power, we might not be facing these pylon proposals."

New power line would run through western chelmsford villages

The current plan for National Grid's East Anglia Green Energy Enablement project would see the creation of a new 180km electricity transmission line across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex to connect offshore wind generation to the grid and to reinforce the power network.

The new line would run mostly overground via 45-50m steel pylons, with some underground cabling through Dedham Vale, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The preferred route for this new overhead line would pass through several places in the Chelmsford City Council area, from south of Great Leighs, before passing between Great and Little Waltham. It would then continue around the western side of Broomfield, Chelmsford, Writtle and Margaretting.

The main objections to the plan

Lib Dem-led Chelmsford City Council has declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency and it supports the transition to a zero-carbon economy. Moving away from gas and oil (which pollutes our environment) to green energy is part of that. However, the council believes that every proposal must be considered on its own merits.

The council has spent the last few weeks studying this plan, and has concluded that in its current form, the harms involved in this proposal would outweigh the benefits.

Objections to the proposal include:

  • A lack of evidence presented that an entirely new transmission line of nearly 200km is needed rather than improvements or extensions to the existing network
  • No alternative proposals presented at all, including any options for an offshore link or an onshore route containing a mix of overhead and underground cables in areas of high sensitivity
  • Concerns over the suitability of overhead transmission lines compared with an offshore solution given the anticipated future impacts of climate change
  • No provision for local sustainable power generation and there is only negative impact for the communities along the proposed route

Serious concerns about power line's proposed route

The council has also raised serious concerns about the preferred route for the scheme, including:

  • That the proposed line may adversely affect the future growth of Chelmsford
  • That a future line must not interfere with emergency helicopter access to Broomfield hospital or with hospital equipment
  • Concerns that the impact of pylons would be considerable on the largely flat landscape of the proposed route
  • That cumulative impacts upon the city should be considered, such as on the Chelmsford North East Bypass, Longfield Solar Farm, the A12 to A120 widening, Chelmsford Garden Community and other sites allocated in Chelmsford's Local Plan
  • Concern that there are areas of high sensitivity close to and between designated heritage assets where more extensive mitigation would be required. The preferred route also abuts the River Ter Site of Special Scientific Interest and a series of ancient woodlands

Cllr Mike Mackrory, Chelmsford City Council's Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development says the project needs a fundamental rethink before it goes any further.

"The country desperately needs to transition to a zero-carbon economy, but this does not mean that all proposals must be approved whatever their impact. A huge scheme like East Anglia GREEN, which will affect people, businesses and the very landscape of the city, needs more than a single option based on old technology.

National Grid must carry out a much wider analysis and consult on all available options before an overground line like the one proposed is given serious consideration. I would welcome more of a focus on local sustainable power generation and a more joined up approach across the region to meet our energy needs as this project is developed further."

Cllr Mike Mackrory, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development

Council's response will be sent to National Grid

The council's response will be submitted to National Grid as part of the first round of the consultation. This non-statutory consultation ran between 21 April and 16 June, but Chelmsford City Council was granted an extension to allow the policy board to first consider the council's response.

National Grid will use the outcomes of the consultation to develop the GREEN project further and a statutory consultation is planned in 2023. Over the next two years environmental impact assessments for the proposal will also be carried out.

If you'd like to know more about National Grid's GREEN proposal, go to https://www.nationalgrid.com/electricity-transmission/network-and-infrastructure/infrastructure-projects/east-anglia-green-our-proposals-chelmsford.

The response being considered by Chelmsford City Council's policy board can be found in the agenda for the meeting.