COUNTY COUNCIL EXPRESSES CONCERN
Energy developers who are bringing forward large-scale energy projects without speaking to councils or communities, were criticised heavily today by Councillor Richard Rout, Deputy Leader of Suffolk County Council and Cabinet member for Finance and the Environment, following the latest publication of National Grid's Transmission Entry Capacity (TEC) Register.
Read the County Council's concerns on the link below. However it's not just Solar Farms and the like. We are concerned about the infrastructure needed for the connection of windfarms and links to continental Europe,
The Aldeburgh Society is very pleased that East Suffolk Council has decided to extend the areas of the Town designated as Conservation Areas. This we believe will help preserve the town's unique character and heritage for future generations.
Conservation Areas exist to manage and protect the special architectural and historic interest of a place - in other words, the features that make it unique. Every local authority in England has at least one Conservation Area and there are around 10,000 in England.
In Conservation Areas there are some extra planning controls and considerations in place to protect the historic and architectural elements which make the place special. Conservation Areas aren’t just about restriction. They ensure that the best of our heritage is kept for future generations and help ensure that every place retains as much as possible of its own unique identity. What’s more, the fact that Conservation Areas enjoy protection from poor-quality development means that they’ve become more desirable as places to live, which in turn is often reflected in higher property prices.
Aldeburgh's conservation area was first designated in 1968, recognizing the town's architectural and historic significance and encompassed the town centre. The Society and Town Council realised some ten years ago that it would be sensible to review its scope, particularly in view of the risk that the area now designated as Aldeburgh Park might lose its limited protection as a special area. Suffolk Coastal District Council (now East Suffolk) agreed and employed consultants to look at options. In addition, representatives of the Society and Town Council walked around key parts of the Town over a period of several months to assess the possibilities. Eventually all was agreed, and East Suffolk Council conducted a consultation which determined most of the Town were very much in favour.
There are three extensions to the existing conservation area as follows:
A new Conservation Area named ‘Aldeburgh Park’ has also been also created. This is essentially the area previously designated as the “Garrett Era Area” which was first developed by Newson Garrett and his family and comprises significant Victorian and Edwardian villas as well as later developments. You can see the new area in the map below. More details of this area and the extensions can be found on the East Suffolk website.
The National Grid LionLink Consultation took place on Friday 6th October at the Leiston Community Centre,Sizewell Rd., Leiston IP16 4JU.
The Aldeburgh Society worked with the Golf Club and other Aldeburgh groups and the campaign organisation SEAS to man a stand at the centre and provide materials. The turnout was very high- over 550 people attended. Thank you to all who attended.
Here is what we circulated and which will help in responding to the consultation.
Background Briefing for the National Grid LionLink Consultation Leiston, Friday 6 October 2023
The Story So Far
The Suffolk Coast is threatened by a series of major energy project proposals. Some have already been granted development consent, others are still at the drafting stage.
In brief these are: -
Sizewell C nuclear power station – Sizewell has been a nuclear site since the 1960s. EDF (a French state-owned company which operates Sizewell B) has consent to build a twin reactor station over the next ten years, subject to obtaining some formal consents and sufficient funding from government and commercial sources. Legal proceedings challenging these plans are ongoing.
East Anglia One North and East Anglia Two offshore windfarms (EA1N/EA2)– Scottish Power Renewables (a Spanish-owned company) has consent to build these two windfarms, including a landfall at Thorpeness cliffs, a large National Grid substation near Friston, and a wide cable corridor between the two. Legal proceedings challenging these plans are ongoing.
Friston substation – National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) has consent via EA1N/EA2 above. This is the lynch pin of all the wind energy projects coming into Suffolk Coastal. Should the legal challenges mentioned above succeed, then none of the other projects have a grid connection in this coastal area and the offshore grid would be the obvious solution.
SeaLink – National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) is proposing to construct an undersea transmission cable between Suffolk and Kent to boost the supply network in London and the South-East. Two potential landfall points have been identified - Sizewell and the beach road between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness, with cabling through North Warren on to a large converter station at either Blackheath or Knodishall, with a final network connection to NG’s proposed Friston substation. The Statutory Consultation will take place at the end of this October/beginning of November before they apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) in 2024.
LionLink (formerly known as Eurolink) interconnector – National Grid Ventures (a non-regulated for-profit company) is proposing to construct a subsea interconnector between the Netherlands and Suffolk to enable bulk power to be transferred either way to meet peaks and troughs. Unfortunately, the power from Holland is not green, but from fossil fuels. Potential landfall points have been identified at Reydon, Southwold, Walberswick, Dunwich and Aldeburgh, with cable trenching to a 26m high / 5-hectare Convertor Station - two massive halls which once operable are locked for 25 years with just a few key holders’ access – in other words no jobs. The convertor station then converts DC to AC on to the National Grid Friston Substation. Statutory consultation will take place in 2024 with a DCO in 2025.
Nautilus interconnector – National Grid Ventures initially envisaged similar arrangements in Suffolk for this interconnector between the UK and Belgium, but has subsequently opted to make landfall in West Grain, Kent and has been investigating pooling the power from Five Estuaries and North Falls windfarms to a Nautilus offshore platform for it to be transported by one set of cables to West Grain. A decision on this was meant to be announced at the end of August, but has been delayed for some reason unknown to the public.
It must be emphasised that Sizewell C and the windfarms and the interconnectors are entirely separate projects put forward by separate developers and running to different timescales. They do however all target connection with the twin gridlines stretching south-west from Sizewell. Recognise also that National Grid is a British/North American commercial public company, not a nationalised utility.
This LionLink Consultation
The Friday 6 October LionLink Consultation is one of three presentations by National Grid officials, following up some previous presentations (including one at the Old Generator Station in Aldeburgh on provisional plans in late 2022) and preparing the way for the formal statutory consultations to be launched in 2025. It will predominantly be staffed by young engineers, planners and PR people. The best people to speak to are the two Senior members of the team, the engineers and the ecologist.
The main argument being put forward by SEAS (Suffolk Energy Action Solutions) and associated groups is that we are in favour of offshore wind energy but that cheaper, better and less environmentally harmful ways are available for managing their output. National Grid are under an obligation to explore offshore solutions and compare the adverse impacts along with cost-saving benefits. We believe the offshore circuits/ grids are now an imperative for Britain and we welcome the proposal for Nautilus to be linked to the Five Estuaries and North Falls windfarms through an offshore platform
The following questions were asked of the project promoters: -
1.Why are you proposing damaging landfall structures, a wide cable corridor and a large converter station in a nationally designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? Is a brownfield or pre-industrialised site not better?
2. What will become of your plans if the legal challenge to the Friston substation plan is successful?
3. Why is the cable corridor so wide? How will you protect rare flora and fauna on the route?
4. Are you sufficiently aware of the crumbling cliffs and the coralline crag in this area of coastline?
5. Have you considered the inadequacy of our rural road network for handling large volumes of construction traffic?
6. We understand that five of the proposed energy projects are within a five square mile area and are to be operable by 2030 - Friston Substation, EA1N & EA2, LionLink and Sealink - plus there will be the ongoing construction of Sizewell C. Can you supply a detailed schedule and timeline on how the construction phases of all these energy projects will interact with each other without bringing the traffic in the area to a standstill?
7. What policies do you have for minimising noise and air pollution and protecting dark skies during the construction process?
8. How long do you envisage the onshore works taking?
9. Do you have any concern for the future wellbeing of Aldeburgh which depends a great deal upon its year-round visitor economy?
10. Why are you not proposing a joint project with Sealink to minimise disruption and costs?
11. Are you considering the alternative option of pooling energy at an offshore platform with the SPR windfarms and taking the power in a single subsea cable to a landing point closer to where it is needed?
12. Can you now see that offshore grid platforms, such as is being constructed on the other side of the North Sea, would be more economic, faster to build, and more efficient, than a plethora of separate cables and onshore structures?
13. Do you support the concept of Holistic Network Design now being proposed by National Grid for the other regions of Great Britain? Then why not include East Anglia?
14. Can you see that the damage you are proposing to inflict on Suffolk is akin to the pollution of waterways by sewage, for which large penalties are being imposed on the water companies?
15. Are you aware that we are prepared to fight these damaging proposals through the Courts if necessary?
Please respond from home via email or letter. SEAS has provided guidance on the questions.
SEAS website: https://www.suffolkenergyactionsolutions.co.uk/
Katherine your Chair has been busy corresponding with Claire Coutinho (who is the new Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero and was appointed in August 2023) on the onshore infrastructure for windfarms. Her intial email is below.
12 September 2023
By email to Secretary.State@energysecurity.gov.uk
TO: Claire Coutinho MP Secretary of State Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)
1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET
Dear Secretary of State
As the civic society for the historic coastal town and cultural centre of Aldeburgh, we are strongly opposed to the plethora of energy projects being proposed by various operators for our fragile Suffolk Coastal area.
We object to the concept of an onshore ‘Energy Superhub’ in the area of Sizewell and the medieval village of Friston, which would involve 6 major infrastructure projects within five square miles, this in a largely rural area with an already inadequate road system. The cumulative impact of multiple projects would effectively industrialise the Heritage Coast, which is supposed to be a nationally protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (containing also a number of SSSIs, SPA and RAMSAR designations), and would undermine the local nature-tourism reliant economy, which is of major importance to our town.
The power which would be generated by the offshore windfarms and - if it goes ahead Sizewell - would not be used on the Suffolk Coast or in East Anglia. Instead, its onshore infrastructure of substations, cable corridors and pylons would plough through our countryside in order to power London and the South East. We are strongly in favour of offshore wind power but we deplore the absence of joined-up thinking about overall network design and infrastructure and we believe that national government needs to act urgently to ensure a more coherent and much less damaging approach.
We support the many local voices calling for a more cost-effective solution based upon the development of an offshore grid. Progress towards this concept is now clearly technically feasible, and it would also be more cost-effective, saving billions for British consumers, giving energy security and safeguarding the environment and local communities. Pooling energy from windfarms offshore and linking them with interconnectors would be economic, would enable energy to be brought closer to where the demand is, and would avoid complex onshore planning and compulsory purchase issues. Bringing the power ashore in brownfield locations would promote local economic regeneration, and would raise fewer environmental protection problems.
Whilst we understand that a fully integrated offshore transmission network (offshore grid) will take a number of years to develop, action can be taken now to help achieve Britain's future wind capacity goals at lower overall cost to the nation and to local communities.
It is very encouraging that two pilot projects involving pooling energy at sea and transporting power by subsea cable closer to demand are already under consideration. These need to be implemented in order to test and perfect this technology over the next few years. The first pilot project is already being planned by the Five Estuaries and North Falls windfarms, combining with the Nautilus interconnector and taking power to the Isle of Grain as part of the OCSS (evidencing the sound rationale for this solution). The second pilot project, which would be of particular benefit to our coastal area, would combine Scottish Power's EA1N and EA2 windfarms with the projected LionLink interconnector to take power to the brownfield site of Bradwell closer to London, which has an existing substation and pylons that can be upgraded, offering huge overall savings.
We are convinced that an offshore grid, such as is already being developed on the other side of the North Sea, would help enable Britain's future energy goals to be met both faster and at lower cost. This really has all the attributes of a win-win solution, and we know that the initial steps are readily achievable. We strongly urge the Government to provide, and implement robustly, a clear policy framework through which this highly desirable aim can be fulfilled.
Chair, the Aldeburgh Society
47 Park Road
Aldeburgh IP15 5EN
This produced a rather unsatisfactory response from one of her officials which you can read here
She has now written a response as below:
By email to Secretary.State@energysecurity.gov.uk Claire Coutinho MP
Secretary of State
Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)
1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET
Dear Secretary of State
Your official's reply dated 3 October to the concerns set out in my letter of 13 September is profoundly disappointing. To dismiss the case for undersea transmission infrastructure at the same time that it is being implemented widely across the North Sea and also in other parts of the UK is not acceptable. Linking wind farm power undersea with interconnectors is a coherent way forward, with potential benefits for all partners and for coastal communities.
Your Prime Minister laid great emphasis in his Party Conference speech on the importance of proper planning for the long term and of doing things differently. Yet your Department is clinging to the unplanned developer-led approach which is threatening to do so much damage to the Suffolk coast. Piecemeal installation of windfarm and interconnector onshore infrastructure is a major threat to our coastal AONB. Just the mass of construction traffic that can be anticipated could bring the whole area to a standstill.
Given recent experience with the handling of the Planning Inspectorate's reports on the SPR windfarms and the Sizewell C DCO applications, it is hard to give credence to your assurance about the robustness and independence of the national infrastructure approval process.
It is essential for central government to assert more control over these development proposals, not least in order to help ensure that there is public acceptance for the difficult and challenging process of moving towards net zero while electricity demand is set to increase exponentially. Letting developers ride roughshod over communities and landscapes, while holding out the carrot of 'community benefits', is not good enough.
All the best
The Aldeburgh Society