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MP on Grimsby to Walpole pylons and Wisbech incinerator plan

In his weekly column, MP James Wild discusses energy resources…

Last Thursday, I was in the House of Commons speaking about constituents’ concerns over plans by National Grid for 90 miles of new pylons from Grimsby to Walpole. At the same time, local elections were under way which resulted in disappointing results for the government.

National Grid’s proposals would see a new high-voltage electricity transmission line, alongside a new substation in the Walpole area, consisting of 50-metre-high pylons – comparable to height of Ely cathedral - approximately every 300 metres.

MP James Wild was also in attendance
MP James Wild was also in attendance

Under this Conservative government, there has been a major increase in energy generated from offshore wind and other renewables due to the incentives put in place for investment. That increased generation needs to connect to homes and businesses. The issue is how to do so in a way that minimises the impact on local people, our countryside, and our communities.

Three options for the Grimsby to Walpole scheme were considered—two onshore and one subsea. The subsea option looked at a Norfolk or a Lincolnshire landfall. There are undoubtedly challenges about a Norfolk landfall which need to be assessed carefully. However, the default for National Grid has been to rule out such options even though pursuing them would lessen the visual impact, environmental effect, and disruption to communities. That needs to be revisited as the process continues.

Having discounted the subsea option, National Grid is proposing new pylons and constituents have raised strong concerns and objections including the damaging visual impact on our beautiful landscapes. Much of the land on the proposed route is grade 1 arable land at a time when we are looking to improve food security.

When I’ve met local councillors, parish councillors and residents they have also asked what assessment has been made of upgrading existing pylon infrastructure. Considering improvements to existing lines is a requirement of the national planning policy statement, that also needs to be addressed ahead of the next consultation.

In addition, National Grid is consulting on two new offshore electricity infrastructure projects - Eastern Green Link- which are subsea links bringing electricity from Scotland to England. They would then run underground to the proposed converter stations and a new transmission station in Walpole. If underground cables are the preferred option for that project, why not for the transmission line scheme? What scope is there for the proposed Grimsby to Walpole link to be integrated into that? Again, that needs to be looked at further.

Both proposals are at the first stage of consultation and the next event on the Eastern Green Link proposals is on May 20 from 2pm-7pm at Walpole Community Centre. I would encourage anyone with questions to attend.

There are major concerns across West Norfolk about the proposals. People are rightly opposed to the potentially damaging impact on our communities and countryside. There has also been a lack of a co-ordinated approach so we need a more transparent process and these plans cannot be the final answer.

This week I hope to raise concerns about the Wisbech incinerator in Parliament again after the government put a pause on approving any new projects. When existing incinerators and those with consent to operate provide enough capacity for our needs, new projects should not be approved.

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