Council stands firm over pylon plan
By thepickler | Monday, February 20, 2012, 15:51
COUNCIL leaders in North Somerset are to join forces with other authority bosses along the route of a proposed new power line to continue to campaign for the cables to go underground.
North Somerset Council is poised to sign a planning performance agreement (PPA) with energy giant National Grid to ensure the authority is fully involved with every step of the power line plans.
Other councils along the route - including Sedgemoor, West Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire - have already signed the agreement.
National Grid wants to create a new 400,000 volt overhead power line from Avonmouth to Hinkley Point to bring electricity onto its transmission network as part of the Hinkley C Connection Project.
The preferred route for the new line - which will mainly follow the route of the existing 132,000 volt line on the western fringes of Nailsea and cut across swathes of the North Somerset and Somerset countryside - was announced by National Grid in September.
An independent report, commissioned by the Infrastructure Planning Committee, looked at the costs of the different options for the cables including overhead, underground, subsea and gas insulated lines.
The report agreed with National Grid that the cheapest option for the new power line was overhead cables, but it also put the costs of undergrounding the cables at between £10.2 million and £24.1 million a kilometre.
Initially National Grid said the costs of underground cables would be 12-17 times more expensive than overhead lines, while the report revealed undergrounding would actually be four to six times more expensive.
North Somerset Council executive member for strategic planning, Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, said: "While we are disappointed that the subsea route appears not to be viable our challenge now is to minimise the environmental impact on residents and businesses.
"So it is vital that we now work with National Grid, local communities and other affected local authorities to secure the best outcome, in particular as much undergrounding as practical around Nailsea, Yatton and the Loxton gap."
National Grid has until 2013 to submit its proposals to the Government and a final decision will be made by the IPC.
Mr Ap Rees added that there were clear benefits from entering into the PPA agreement.
He said: "Being part of the Planning Performance Agreement will ensure that a consistent approach between authorities is taken along the whole length of the preferred route corridor, resources are shared between authorities, duplication is avoided and the council is recompensed for the time and effort spent in responding to National Grid proposals.
"We can still disagree and object to what is being proposed - this PPA does not mean that our ability to robustly challenge what National Grid is putting forward is curtailed, far from it.
"But what we need to do is be at the centre of things, influencing and cajoling, not shouting from the sidelines.
"Doing this gives us the best chance to work with interest groups, other councils, who no doubt will be facing the same issues as we will be, and with National Grid themselves."