Campaigners who claim huge proposed power projects could “cause permanent and indefensible damage” to Suffolk’s coastal area have called on a Government minister to suspend all schemes until their overall impact has been reviewed.
Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (SEAS) has written to Minister of State Kwasi Kwarteng, who is heading the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Review into the onshore infrastructure needed for billions of pounds worth of projects planned to access the UK via the county’s coast.
Although the BEIS has said It is looking at “tactical near-term actions” and “early opportunities for coordination for projects in the short to medium term”, SEAS still has “grave concerns”.
ScottishPower Renewables’ plans for its East Anglia One North (EA1N) and East Anglia Two (EA2) offshore wind farm proposals are currently before the Planning Inspectorate, undergoing examination hearings.
The two projects would cover more than 400 sq km of the North Sea, with a 142 turbines, generating 1700 megawatts of power, enough electricity for nearly 1.5million households.
But there have been protests across east Suffolk at the impact of building the infrastructure to bring the power ashore, including a massive 30-acre substation which would be built at Friston.
In addition to the windfarms, a series of other projects are also planned.
SEAS has welcomed plans for a national masterplan to bring the power to shore more efficiently, but says the impact of the onshore infrastructure needs to be considered as part of the offshore design development and vice versa.
It said: “In short, a coordinated, holistic approach is needed within the BEIS Review in which both the onshore and offshore infrastructure are planned together to minimise costs and adverse impacts on coastal environments, lives and livelihoods across the region.
“If you look at ScottishPower Renewables’ (SPR) DCO application for EA1N and EA2, you will see that the onshore substations and cable corridors will cause permanent and indefensible damage to an environmentally sensitive area, including 9 km trenches at 60 metres wide gouging through the Suffolk Coastal Path, the Suffolk Sandlings, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and lead to the destruction of mature woodland and swathes of Grade 2 and 3 agricultural land.
“Once established, the substation at Friston will become the magnet for all future planned projects in the area (including Nautilus, Eurolink, Galloper and Greater Gabbard Extensions, SDC1 and SDC2), representing the largest industrialised complex of this kind in Europe.
“The scale of cumulative impact on a small medieval village in the midst of unspoilt countryside and the surrounding area from Aldeburgh and Thorpeness to Snape is unmitigable.”
ScottishPower Renewables says it has worked to minimise the impact of its onshore infrastructure on communities.
The company said mitigation measures for the substation, proposed for Friston, include significant reductions to the size of the buildings as well as natural screening to minimise visibility.
Its DCO application for EA1N and EA2 had been submitted and accepted by the Planning Inspectorate following “extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders”.
SPA is also “generally supportive of the concept of a more strategically planned and operated offshore grid network” but feels this will require significant changes to the current grid regulatory framework and planning process.
The Secretary of State has granted a three month extension to the Examination.
During the recent development consent order hearings (DCO), the Suffolk Energy Action Solutions group (SEAS) brought to the attention of the inspectors the fact that Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) are using “gagging” clauses in their agreements with landowners involved in the planning process for their offshore wind farms, EA1N and EA2. These clauses offer financial incentives to individuals and groups to withdraw objections and/or desist from objecting to their plans. There can be no justification for making payments or imposing conditions which undermine a statutory planning inquiry conducted in accordance with public law principles.