Fiona Gilmore, SEAS, Open Floor Hearing 1, 7 October 2020


My name is Fiona Gilmore and I speak on behalf of Suffolk  Energy Action Solutions, the SEAS Campaign (in short), which  has a growing number of supporters from across the UK, as  well as from Norfolk and Suffolk. SEAS supporters have sent  thousands of postcards to the Secretary of State, Andrea  Leadsom, in the Autumn 2019 asking for a BEIS Review into  offshore transmission infrastructure and now it has been called.  We believe the short-medium term workstream for the BEIS  Review can make a positive difference to this DCO Examination before Deadline 4, date TBC.

People across the UK have united behind a common cause. A  call for fairness and justice. I speak tonight for the people  whose voices may not be heard. We are strongly in favour of  wind energy.

With the growing sense of excitement around the country  regarding the opportunities for the UK to lead the world in  Renewables and particularly, in wind energy, we are hugely  disappointed in the Applicant’s offshore transmission  infrastructure plans for EA1N and EA2.

These plans defy credibility, make no sense to us. We can  really sum them up in just two words: IRRATIONAL and  DISINGENUOUS.

The adverse impacts of this 12-year construction programme,  building the UK’s largest wind energy industrial complex  outweigh any benefits. For the health of our environment,  economy and well-being of our communities, these plans are  deleterious.

Amongst diverse communities, there is a profound sense of  anger and frustration and for others a feeling of apprehension.  A nightmare surely that one will wake up and see that it was  just a horrid dream? But, no.

I speak for the SEAS campaigners when I say that we are:

DISAPPOINTED: that there’s no logical trail between the  green credentials of the energy generation at sea and its  connection to the Grid on unspoilt countryside. We ask the  question, as long as wind generation is green, is it then: to  hell with everything else?

DISAPPOINTED: in the NSIP process, which was never  intended for a single site with designation for multiple substation and interconnector usage. The legal criteria for the  NSIP process are narrow and seem to be no longer fit for  purpose given these multiple substation objectives. The  consequences for this small area merit more considered and  contextualised evaluation than a DCO process permits. DISAPPOINTED: that the UK had no Master Plan for offshore  transmission infrastructure, during the last ten years; how  embarrassing is that? Given its critical role in the delivery of  our zero carbon emission targets and given our much talked  about world leadership ambition.

DISAPPOINTED: in Ofgem’s and National Grid’s role in all of  this as well as the Crown Estates.

DISAPPOINTED: that these plans are flaky. The assessment  methodologies are at times limited to just desk research and  that is inadequate given the unique circumstances and context  of coastal Suffolk and scale of projects. Key evaluation factors  have been omitted and quantitative assessments have at times  used outdated methods and not taken into account the  cumulative impacts.

DISAPPOINTED: that local people live under this cloud, they  are so worried and fearful of the “threat “, because that’s what  they call it, that some have become sick with worry, others  have fallen into depression. Those of a certain age, came to  live here after years of working in the ‘smoke’, now looking for  the golden years to be sweeter in the countryside, living within  a thriving rural community, enjoying the tranquillity, the  wildlife and beauty in Nature. Simple things that we wish to  preserve, not in aspic, but protected from needless destruction.  Younger people are simply appalled that in the name of green  energy, we are about to ravage one of our most fragile,  precious parts of the countryside. Is that a noble legacy?

The pressure for local interested parties, especially at a time of  personal and national upheaval cannot be underestimated. We believe that these plans are materially flawed.

For the Open Floor Hearings, we can only summarise major  concerns but rest assured, these will be amplified in the written  submissions and at issue specific hearings where we wish to  speak on the following issues: BEIS Review, choice of site,  roads and air quality, wildlife, Thorpeness, as well as economic prognosis for Aldeburgh, Snape Maltings and SMEs in coastal  Suffolk.

For now, just a few of the issues in no particular order:

1. The UK has no Master Plan for offshore transmission  infrastructure. The BEIS Review called on 15 July 2020 puts  emphasis on ensuring the appropriate balance between (and  I quote) “environmental, social and economic costs in  finding the most appropriate way” to deliver transmission  connections for offshore wind. We believe that the DCO for  EA1N and EA2 should not be granted at this premature  stage. The DCO should only be granted when a more  suitable way forward is decided upon and policy  recommendations and proposed changes to the existing  regime are made. With a majority Government, this reform  can be fast-tracked.

2. The Applicant (in this case National Grid is included) have  failed in their duty of care to keep up to date and to consider  new generation transmission technologies as better  alternatives to the current planned technology system, and  that failure in turn has contributed to the wrong choice of site for the location of the substations. We say better  alternatives. We are talking about proven technology  solutions, which deliver substantial benefits for all parties  concerned: more synergies and efficiencies can be achieved  and these solutions tick the key boxes: cost, security,  consistency, timescale and most importantly because these  are offshore solutions, needless damage to the environment is avoided as the onshore connection is  then made at a brownfield site.

3. The Applicant (in this case National Grid) has failed despite  Freedom of Information requests to give any reasonable  explanation as to why Bramford was not chosen as the site  location, given that it was originally selected. In their “Note  on the Assessment of options for the connection of SPR  EA1N and EA2 offshore wind farms to the National Grid  Network”, dated 28 June 2018, this explains why the  offshore wind farms are proposing to connect to the NETS in  Sizewell/Leiston area, but given that Bramford was an  already brownfield site with EA1 and EA3 designated there, it is curious that this site selection was abandoned  relatively late in the process.

4. The Applicant (in this case National Grid) does not give a  rationale as to why Bradwell was not fully considered; the  Rt Hon Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, states in her  Relevant Representation, received by the Planning  Inspectorate on 27 January 2020: (and I quote)

“Throughout the consultation stages, I have suggested  alternatives to SPR, including Bradwell, which would have  meant less onshore cabling and substations in a more  appropriate location...”

5. Deficiencies in the Red-Amber-Green (RAG) assessment for  the substation(s).

The RAG assessment does not consider the combined  effect/suitability of co-locating 3 substation sites in one  location, or a greater number as is now becoming apparent.  Use of the correct methodology early in the process would have  resulted in a different conclusion and led to the choice of a site  with less significant environmental and socio-economic impacts  being taken forward.

If one is simply looking at 2 years of construction and one set  of substations, the degree of horror is not as great as 12 years  of ongoing construction and a concatenation of 8 substations  and inter-connectors. Make no mistake. The Applicant is the  harbinger, the Trojan Horse for this onslaught on our precious  countryside.

6. Others will elaborate in great depth as to why the medieval  village of Friston was a very poor choice of location. We are  therefore going to reference other places and communities  impacted directly or indirectly in no particular order with  questions relating to the thoroughness and rigour of  assessment methodologies.

Our economic prognosis for coastal Suffolk, based on the  cumulative impacts is of grave concern.

Things here for most SMEs are finely balanced. Profit margins  are tight. The tourism and visitor industry accounts directly or  indirectly for at least 30% of total revenue streams. We have concerns for the future of Thorpeness, Aldeburgh and the  Snape Maltings. In our written submissions, we shall amplify  our specific concerns based on numerous studies and assessments that have already sought to address this threat to  this region.

A conservative evaluation according to the DMO Energy  Coast report of the potential loss caused by the  cumulative impact could be £40m per annum.

7. The Wildlife has no voice, so SEAS is speaking up for our  rare habitats and thriving communities in the cable corridor  areas, in particular.

One of our young SEAS members is a Zoologist, who has  written a full report of the prognosis for permanent destruction  to these habitats. There is a biodiversity crisis occurring right  now and this site location is emblematic of hollow words. We  hear on the one hand from those who have a platform that  Biodiversity goals are paramount and yet here we are breaking  up, fragmenting protected areas into islands which become  more isolated as there is less migration.

Most populations of animals are a meta population connected  to each other by migration paths. If these pathways are  severed, such as by a gouged-out cable trench, inevitably declines and extinctions follow. This is an issue for the  mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

Then the bird habitats become unavailable for sensitive wildlife,  such as the red listed nightingale, turtle dove, linnet and other  migratory birds who would have nested there.

As Sir David Attenborough states: “people must feel that the  natural world is important and valuable and beautiful and  wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure”.

How do we then value the countryside, the loss of a  nightingale, or a pure, red deer?

In conclusion:

Is this the legacy for now and future generations? Wind  energy infrastructure that robbed us of our precious  countryside, forever.

We cannot accept these plans.

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