Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk County Council leaders are urging National Grid to reconsider their preferred onshore option following findings of a recent review.
The councils jointly commissioned and have now published an independent report into the Norwich to Tilbury project, which proposes the construction of a new high voltage electricity transmission line between Norwich in Norfolk, Bramford in Suffolk and Tilbury in Essex.
Leaders of the three county councils are now asking National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) and the electricity system planner, National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) to consider the findings.
The report, by Hiorns Smart Energy Networks, reviews the options considered by National Grid, including the preferred option of a pylon line between Norwich and Tilbury.
The total length of the line would be 183 kilometres. This would consist of around 158 kilometres of new overhead line supported by 520 pylons. There would be also four sections of underground cabling.
These underground sections would run through, and in the vicinity of, the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. National Grid’s proposals also include a new substation on the Tendring Peninsula, to allow the connection of offshore wind farms.
Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk County Councils, accept that the transmission network in East Anglia needs reinforcing to support the transition to net zero, and provide energy security.
However, they remain concerned that the need for, and timing of, the current proposals is uncertain and not robust.
This uncertainty brings into question the need case for National Grid’s preferred option, of a land-based pylon line.
All three county councils have expressed their concerns that this option will harm the local economy, environment and the health and wellbeing of their communities.
The review focused on a re-appraisal of the need case for the project; that need case was developed by National Grid Electricity System Operator.
The review looked into the need and timing of the proposals. It also looked into National Grid’s decision that a terrestrial route, comprised mostly of overhead lines and pylons, would be preferable to an integrated offshore option.
The review supported National Grid’s position that there is a need for additional electricity transmission capacity to connect renewable and low carbon energy generation in the East Anglia region.
However, it challenged the delivery date of 2030, and suggested that the need for additional transmission capacity would be closer to 2035, or beyond. This supports the concerns raised by the three councils.
While this potential delay to the need for Norwich to Tilbury is likely to reduce the cost of National Grid developing an integrated offshore alternative, the report concludes that the most economical option for meeting the need for future transmission capacity remains onshore overhead lines, and pylons.
Given the uncertainties around the need for, and timing of, the Norwich to Tilbury Project, all three council’s strongly recommend that National Grid carefully consider the Hiorns report, and its potential implications for the project.
Leader of Essex County Council, Councillor Kevin Bentley said: “We are urging the national bodies involved in this proposal to reconsider their position. We appeal to them to make the right choice, not the easy one, to avoid leaving our county bearing the scars of short-term decision making.”
“We believe that the proposed onshore route will have an adverse impact on residents, businesses, communities and the local environment.
"We therefore welcome the report and urge National Grid to consider the concerns and points that it raises and fully explore our preference for an integrated offshore option.”
Leader of Norfolk County Council, Councillor Kay Mason Billig said: “We already knew that the proposed pylons would have a dramatic impact on the unique and cherished landscapes of East Anglia: now, thanks to the hard work that has gone into this report, we can see that the need for this capacity by 2030 has been overstated by up to five years.
“I would urge the government to use this extra time not to rush ahead with building pylons years before they’re needed, but rather to thoroughly test and cost-up the alternative options that could, if implemented, significantly reduce the impact on our communities and precious environment.”
Leader of Suffolk County Council, Councillor Matthew Hicks said: “The effects of pylons and all the associated infrastructure cutting across all three counties cannot be underestimated. The impact on local communities and businesses will be significant, along with consequences for wildlife, our visitor economy and protected landscapes.
“This will come in the short-term through building works, disruption and disturbance of habitats - but most notably in the long-term for future generations who will suffer from construction that they cannot reverse, all for a project that could have less impact if it went by sea.
“To ensure the UK's energy security, our clear
preference is for a coordinated, offshore centred approach, delivered at pace to minimise onshore works in Suffolk.”
View the report.
Read more about the Norwich to Tilbury proposals.