National Grid Proposals – Public Meeting Alphamstone Village Hall 3rd Feb 7pm
A letter from David Holland, Chair of Stour Valley Underground.
Dear All,National Grid’s Connection Proposals:
An Approach to Building an Effective Community Response from Stour Valley Section ResidentsThis email presents a model for community lead response to National Grid’s proposals. By way of example, it is also a report in on what’s happening at the Stour Valley end of this issue and in particular, amongst the affected North Essex communities. It therefore presents possible ways forward for all of us living both sides of the River Stour.Here on the Essex side we are confronted with proposals that currently comprise underground cables and a substation with the threat of more pylons instead of underground cables looming.I should tell you that there is some pushback on under-grounding with some seeing underground cables as more environmentally damaging than OHL’s. It could be argued that this view prioritizes highly local protections over wider ones.NG have changed the proposed route for the underground cable on the south side of the river to run much nearer to Alphamstone. This has quite understandably energised the currently horrified community there who were hitherto, not as engaged on the issue as some .The newly proposed route runs close to the village through cherished habitat and wetland. The route is in part across a farm that is very much managed as natural habitat and for its natural beauty.The route Stour Valley Underground proposed a decade back avoided these issues was shorter but more costly. This was due to the need for directional drilling under an ancient woodland. NG have proposed a cheaper option.This advent has the potential to set communities in opposition to one another because of their differing interests. This when hitherto, our communities had a long standing settled view on what they wanted to see. Perhaps this is just what NG want. Getting us arguing amongst ourselves damages our ability to use the time available to mount an effective challenge to their proposals.There is another unpalatable issue: what would a pylon solution look like in our Valley? I feel we will have to deal with that question. People are alarmed at the swathe taken by underground cables where no trees can be allowed to grow. Pylons however necessitate the clearance of trees and vegetation. Two lines 50m apart will also result in similarly proportioned swathe of permanently treeless countryside plus the visual intrusion of pylons and lines.Public MeetingsIn light of the above, I have organised a first public meeting at Alphamstone Village Hall on Feb 3rd. The event is open to all Stour Valley Section Residents. Alphamstone’s is a fine and recently upgraded venue which has the tech and airiness we need to support the event. The meeting will allow us to bring relative newcomers to the issue up to speed on the bigger picture and background to the issues.A meeting at this location is bound to be dominated by the underground routing issue. For this reason I will follow it up with another public meeting at Wickham St Pauls VH to centre on the substation issue, the other key issue here.Following this, another meeting will be needed to bring together and hopefully agree, the various proposals for dealing with the very local issues across a larger area.Clearly we have to pull these separate threads together.I am proposing or perhaps implementing a model for an approach to this issue which I hope is relevant to Suffolk readers. I am hoping that we can encourage our friends and fellow travellers on the Suffolk side of the river at Cornard, Newton Green and Assington to do something similar. The objective being to ensure that before the end of the consultation, we can present a united front and a comprehensive set of “better way” proposals. These “better way” proposals would include routing and mitigation to put to NG from the entire Stour Valley Section.Going forward, after local public meetings having taken place and before the close of the consultation, a penultimate step could be to bring the communities and their “better ways” options from both sides of the valley together at Sudbury Town Hall. The objective here being a bringing together and if possible agree a widely supported collective response from the Stour Valley Section. Sudbury is the hub of our area and in so doing, the town would be fulfilling its historically precedented role for us all. We are after all, all in this together.Conclusion.The above is founded on a model for community based response to National Grid. The process starts very locally, tasked to develop a response to local issues locally. The next steps are to bring the communities together across increasingly larger areas, to collate and agree an overall response from the communities of the Stour Valley Section as a whole.This will be an enormous challenge. I understand if you feel this is beyond do-able. But I would argue that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we should not try. Failure to agree a common response at any level simply means more separate submissions to consultation. But at the risk of sounding clicheic, we are undoubtedly stronger together and no matter what, we are all in this together.I will be very grateful for any views you might wish to share on the above.With best wishes,DavidDavid HollandChair: SVU(For clarity: I am also Chair of the Hennys, Middleton and Twinstead PC though am not in this instance acting on behalf of that body or in my role as Chair)