EDF's prospective new nuke at Sizewell is not the only vast energy scheme threatening Suffolk's rural amenities and running laughable “consultation” exercises (Eyes passim). Only two miles away, Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) is right up there with EDF - on both counts.
SPR's “East Anglia Hub” would be a 3 gigawatt offshore windfarm complex in the North Sea. Designed to produce sustainable electricity out of sight over the horizon, the plan has broad support - in principle. However, the onshore ramifications are contentious: the location for landfall of the incoming power cables, the digging of a six-mile “cable corridor”, and two large new substations. These works would cut across a stretch of Heritage Coast, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Oddly, SPR is not intending to do the obvious and amalgamate its workings with those of EDF's Sizewell C project next door, with its large existing site and grid connection. (Maybe SPR is as sceptical about Sizewell's prospects as Old Sparky.)
Local residents want and could ordinarily expect a programme of public meetings - but Covid-19 has scuppered that. SPR has argued instead for online meetings to keep the process moving. The government endorses the “virtual” approach, conditional upon it being made to work for all concerned.
Many locals complain they are not comfortable with the technology involved. But the Planning Inspectorate facilitated training sessions; people determinedly made the effort; and everything seemed set for an online consultation last month. Some 100 local participants managed to deal with the new-fangled systems - but not, alas, the SPR team of legal and professional advisers, who couldn't make their technology work and were reduced to joining the three-hour meeting by phone. Compounding the irony, the invisible SPR lawyers then rehearsed at length their arguments for conducting matters virtually!
Not much more confidence-inspiring, then, than EDF's ill-fated “Sizewell consultation bus” that, too big for local car parks, became ignominiously stuck on the verge beside a lay-by (Eye 1529). Oh, and SPR still hasn't satisfied locals on why it can't use existing sites and grid facilities for its new project.
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.