Urgent review needed of 'potentially devastating' number of energy projects

Generic picture of electricity pylons stretching across the fields between Gissing and Tivetshall St

Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils say urgent action is needed over the number of large power projects planned in Suffolk - Credit: Archant © 2006

Two Suffolk councils are calling for an urgent government review of the number and scale of proposed energy infrastructure projects which could be "potentially devastating" for communities.

The leaders of Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils have written to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, calling for a wider review of the strategic planning of energy infrastructure.

This includes developments such as solar farms and battery storage, for which the districts are seeing a significant number of applications.

In the letter, the leaders say they are adding the councils’ weight and support to the concerns raised by MPs and residents across the eastern region, “regarding the number and scale of energy infrastructure developments that will result in significant and potentially devastating impacts on our communities, businesses and environments”.

Suzie Morley, who has become the new leader at Mid Suffolk District Council. Picture: MID SUFFOLK DI

Suzie Morley, leader at Mid Suffolk District Council. Picture: MID SUFFOLK DISTRICT COUNCIL/PAUL NIXON - Credit: MSDC/PAUL NIXON

It follows both councils’ recent objections to National Grid’s non-statutory consultation on proposals for the East Anglia GREEN project of overhead power lines across Suffolk.

Mid Suffolk leader Suzie Morley said the council recognised the importance of the government’s net-zero agenda and the need for ongoing energy security but had "serious concerns" at the seeming lack of strategic coordination.

She said: “We are concerned that transmission projects continue to come forwards in our districts, premature of the findings of the offshore transmission network review and other relevant work, with seemingly little coordination with, or consideration of, the cumulative impacts of the various other projects affecting the region.

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“We think that there is a need for greater clarity around the options for delivering the outcomes of such energy transmission projects, including East Anglia GREEN, into the wider framework of strategic offshore coordination.”

Babergh leader John Ward said the overriding preference was for a "coordinated, offshore approach" for various transmission network projects to minimise impacts on communities, businesses, and the environment.

John Ward, Conservative leader at Babergh District Council.

John Ward, Conservative leader at Babergh District Council - Credit: BABERGH DISTRICT COUNCIL

He said: "Additionally, our communities are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the number of energy generation and associated development projects, particularly solar and battery storage system proposals. We consider that there is a similar lack of coordination and policy at national level which adds significantly to the challenge our residents, officers, and councillors face in dealing effectively with such proposals, especially given the cumulative impacts of co-located proposals.”

The leaders go on to ask ministers to step in to ensure urgent discussions can take place between various stakeholders to develop a more cohesive strategy.

National Grid says the existing electricity network was developed in the 1960s and, to date, had been able to meet demand.

However, increased renewable and low carbon power by 2030 means demand will increase significantly and the existing power lines do not have the capacity to meet it without reinforcement.