Energy Election Hustings 9 June

Jun 10, 2024 | Cumulative Impact, Environment / Net Zero, Media Coverage, National Grid, News, Politics

To a packed house of 280 local residents, Bishop Martin chaired the Energy Election Hustings Q&A session with good humour and grace. The four political candidates participating were:
Dr Therese Coffey, Conservative
Julian Cusack, Green
Jenny Riddell-Carpenter, Labour
Julia Ewart, LibDem

Read the EADT article ahead of the Hustings HERE and watch the brief BBC Look East coverage HERE

These four questions were raised at yesterday’s Hustings at Aldeburgh Parish Church related to National Grid’s plans for this region and SEAS campaign, with the last one referring to the cumulative impact of all the energy projects.

The audience were attentive and polite, yet below the surface one sensed the frustration, despondency and scepticism.

There were moments of big applause, showing the heartfelt appreciation of specific points made.

If we had had a “clapometer”, Julian Cusack probably received the most applause for his comments on SZC’s out of control costs and his rejection of National Grid’s proposals. If the only votes that counted for this constituency were in Aldeburgh Church last night, Julian may have well carried away the Crown.

However, what might win the day in Aldeburgh, is not representative of the constituency as a whole.

As we all know, lots of Suffolk Coastal voters living in other parts of the region are less concerned about energy infrastructure issues and more worried about social care, the NHS, cost of living, skilled jobs and education.

Therese Coffey had the best grasp of the National Grid issues, and is now clearly “unleashed”, but in the last five years she has not succeeded in convincing five successive Secretaries of State of the need to use brownfield sites closer to London, such is the iron-clad hold on grid development that the monopolistic National Grid plc enjoys.

Julia Ewart reminded the audience of the huge opportunities for UK plc to benefit from emerging manufacturing needs, such as for subsea cables. The new economic free port zone at Felixstowe could be a dynamic platform to enable faster take-up of these new technologies given that the procurement queues are lengthy. That is the result of successive Ministers and National Grid, failing to grasp this opportunity ten years ago, when Holland, Belgium, Germany and Denmark were moving at pace and scale and jumping into the queue.

The new Labour candidate, fragrantly fresh to these particular issues, chose not to get into the nitty-gritty, recognising that her opponents had the benefit of years of debate about energy infrastructure and the impacts for what we still call the Heritage Coast. Instead, Jenny skimmed through the debate with a seductive repetitive refrain, almost a gentle yet resolute Aria : “ change, change, change, pace, pace, pace”.

Yet, with a direct door to the new Minister in Waiting for Net Zero, Adam Whitehead, we can expect Jenny to get our voices heard. But, will it make any difference? We have a history of doors being closed on Suffolk Coastal. Why should it be any different now?

Julian experienced one uncomfortable moment with the one question (see question 3 on the list). He ducked the criticism inherent within it, directed at a Green Councillor Tom Daly, who was elected to defend the whole region from needless developer-led catastrophe. A Letter jointly signed by Tom Daly at East Suffolk Council and by Richard Rout at Suffolk County Council (see letter HERE), declaring that it would be best to co-locate LionLink landfall at Aldeburgh North Warren along with Sea Link has prompted an outcry from local communities, recognising the implicit encouragement for location to go head to head against location, rather than focusing efforts on promoting the significant benefits of offshore solutions and brownfield sites, closer to London.

Behind the scenes, Phil Ridley, is now the chief civil servant responsible at ESC for all NSIP projects and is deftly guiding his new Green Councillors through the miasma, no doubt pulling the strings, getting closer to National Grid’s dream vision for the major Hub at Friston-Saxmundham, what is now called the FRISAX or SAXTON Energy Super Hub, dealing the biggest blow to local communities, ecology and economy for this whole region.

The fact that a Green Councillor signed this Letter shows us how these representatives who are there to serve their communities are not clear about the technological revolution taking place in the North Sea, but instead are bogged down by National Grid propaganda and assertive civil servants, riding roughshod over whatever is in the way.

Our choice at this General Election is frankly a stark one:

  • Which candidate is going to have the ability to grasp the issues, the technology opportunities and communicate the arguments with conviction?
  • Which candidate is going to keep pushing, resolutely determined to highlight the better solutions?
  • Which candidate is going to be listened to?
  • Which candidate is going to go the extra mile for communities whose voice has not been heard?