Crunch pylon meeting at Nailsea on Saturday

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By Carol_Deacon | Wednesday, November 21, 2012, 12:57

A high profile meeting with three West Country MPs is planned in Nailsea on Saturday to discuss the new pylon route disclosed by the National Grid this month.

North Somerset MP Liam Fox, Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose and Wells MP Tessa Munt will all be at the open forum organised by Nailsea Against Pylons Action Group.

Dr Fox will chair the debate called There Is A Better Way with invited representatives of the National Grid and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Labelled NIMBYs (Not In My BackYard) for defending open countryside from developers and the giant power company this meeting will be seen by many as a gauge of how strongly local people still feel about the huge new power line route.

Published at the beginning of November the initial reaction to the National Grid draft route for the new 37-mile, 400,000 volt power line between Bridgwater and Avonmouth has been mixed but mainly favourable.

National Grid need the power lines for when a new nuclear power station capable of generating up to 3,260MW of electricity at Hinkley Point C to be built by 2025.

Hinkley Point is identified as one of eight potential sites in the UK suitable for a new generation of nuclear power plants. 

Campaigners are relieved that changes to the route show that the power line will now be further away from homes along the western edge of Nailsea towards Tickenham.

The two existing 132,000 volt lines which blight the open countryside and cross homes and gardens in Causeway View and Rhyne View will be dismantled with one being buried underground and the other being replaced with the new overhead 400,000 volt line.

Although residents say they are pleased with the changes they want the energy giant to underground all cables across Nailsea Moor.

One plus of the new route is that the low-hanging cables which currently drape Nailsea Town Football Club ground will go.

The club has been unable to install floodlights at council-owned land at Fryth Way because its teams play under the shadow of the pylons.

The first concession in the fight to stop Nailsea being encircled by massive power line was the scrapping of the proposal route around the 'executive estates' on the eastern side of the town near The Bucklands and Backwell lake.

People power backed by their MPs gained other major concessions with the announcement that parts of the line will go underground for five miles in the Mendip Hills - an area of outstanding natural beauty.

And other shorter sections of the line will be removed to enable construction of the new line and a substation at Sandford. 

Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose said: "If these whopping great pylons had gone ahead we'd have damaged some of our finest countryside. 

"I'm absolutely delighted that a combination of local pressure and good sense has won through."

However, his Conservative colleague and neighbouring constituency MP Dr Fox wants to engage in 'the battle of Tickenham ridge'

Dr Fox said: "The undergrounding of lines across the Mendips is welcome, but nothing is being done to reduce the environmental impact of potentially higher pylons across Tickenham Ridge.

"We will continue to fight for the use of new technology as the cost must be measured in more than just money.  

"This may be the end of the 'War of the Mendips' but it is just the beginning of the 'Battle of Tickenham Ridge'."

National Grid senior project manager Peter Bryant said: "We've been very keen to listen to the views of local people. 

"We understand people have concerns about overhead lines, but where they are used, we will work hard to reduce any visual effects by routing the line carefully and using appropriate pylon designs, which could include the new T-Pylon."

Yatton councillor and environmentalist Tony Moulin said: "People will remain very disappointed at these proposals. 

"What many people of Yatton wanted was for the line to be undergrounded and for these options to be seriously considered by National Grid.

"What they have ended up with is large pylons which follow the line of the existing route.

"People are still questioning the whole reason why this scheme is needed when proposals for a new Hinkley Point C connection project power station has not even been agreed."

Tickenham parish councillor David Franks, 78, said: "We have to accept that people need electricity and it has to get from A to B safely and that there will always be pylons." 

Nailsea Against Pylons spokesman Fiona Erleigh said: "Fewer pylons and power lines on the landscape has to be a good thing." 

"The good news for Nailsea in National Grid's latest plans is that both existing 132kV powerlines will be removed from our landscape and from alongside people's homes.  

"One will be taken down completely.  

"The other will be laid underground between Portishead and Nailsea, transitioning to overhead south west of Nailsea.

"It's very good news for those Nailsea residents with pylons in their back yards – the health and property blight issues decline significantly for them. 

"There will be a short section of five miles laid underground through the Mendip Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  

"However,the location and impact of transition stations from underground to overhead at either end of the AONB will be contentious still.  

"The one located along M5 between Crook Peak and Brent Knoll is going to stand out like a sore thumb.  

"The other near Sandford will be compounded by being combined with a substation for the link to Weston-super-Mare.

 "But the really disappointing news is that National Grid will still erect the new 400kV line on much higher and uglier pylons right through Nailsea Moor and elsewhere along the entire route from Avonmouth to Bridgwater, forever disfiguring the flat landscape of the North Somerset Moors and the Somerset Levels.   

"The new powerline will consist of 12-18 cables which will cut a grey swathe through our skies.  

"The new pylons will be three times taller than any tree on Nailsea Moor.  

"If we do nothing now, we will all be looking at a horrible eyesore across our landscape in four to five years time and so the campaign to for the line to be underground or undersea continues."

Depending on how many troops Dr Fox can muster for his 'battle' will be determined if the fight continues so it is imperative a good number turn on November 24 from 2.30-4.30pm at the Methodist Church, Silver Street.

Nailsea Against Pylons Action Group spokesman Ian Morrell said: "We were relatively pleased with the draft route proposed by National Grid and the changes which have been made.

"Removing the two existing 132,000 volt lines and dismantling one and undergrounding the other has to be good news.

"But the feeling is that National Grid could do better and the new 400,000 volt line also needs to go underground."

The call to put the entire line underground follows an independent report which revealed 80 per cent of people would be willing to pay extra on their power bills to help fund the work. 

The total cost of the project is currently estimated as £220 million. 

National Grid revealed the cost of burying the entire Hinkley C connector route from Bridgwater to Avonmouth would be less than £1 a year on customers' bills.

Mr Morrell added: "What is clear from the evidence of the consultation is that people are prepared to pay for the lines to go underground and for the environment and local landscape to be protected.

"We are convinced that the amount of pressure from local action groups is having an effect on the decisions made by National Grid.

"We need to keep this pressure up and the pot boiling."

North Somerset Council leaders have also expressed disappointment that sections of the route through North Somerset will still be overground.

North Somerset Council deputy leader and Weston councillor Elfan Ap Rees said: "This is not what residents want to hear and we will continue to argue for the whole overhead line to be underground to improve the appearance of our countryside."

The number of pylons between Bridgwater and Avonmouth will be reduced from 240 to 145, the National Grid said. 

Mr Morrell said the aim of the meeting was for people to come and have their say and give feedback on the draft route.

Maggie Gregory, of Pylon Moor Pressure, said: "Latest information supports the efforts of the combined campaign groups of Somerset Alliance Against Pylons.  

"Underground and undersea technologies are developing fast and costs are declining as other countries and National Grid themselves are increasingly making use of them.  

"Offshore windfarms such as the Atlantic Array in the Bristol Channel and links with Europe, Scotland and Ireland, are all being laid undersea by National Grid."

And Paul Hipwell of No Moor Pylons said: "National Grid's own research shows that consumers are 'willing to pay' up to £20 per annum to have lines laid underground.  

"Undergrounding the Hinkley connection in full will cost only an extra 75p per average consumer annually, according to National Grid's own data.  

"Common sense must prevail before it is too late and the flat landscapes of the Somerset Levels and North Somerset Moors are blighted with giant pylons for the next 100 years."

Further information on the draft route can be found by clicking HERE

Residents can also visit National Grid's community information hubs in Congresbury, Nailsea and Avonmouth during November and December to find out more about the project. 

Following consultation on the draft route, National Grid will consult on more detailed proposals before making a formal application for consent to construct the connection.

      

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