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CPRE eastern coalition release a report into the National Grid’s plans

CPRE Norfolk
By CPRE Norfolk
7th May 2024

A coalition of three CPRE branches in the eastern region has endorsed a report into the National Grid’s plans for huge new onshore transmission projects, seven of which will have a massive impact on local communities and landscapes in East Anglia.

The proposals by the energy giant are at the heart of its ‘Great Grid Upgrade’, a programme to create a decarbonised transmission system from the new – mainly offshore or coastal – energy generation sources to businesses and households across the country. This includes the proposed new line of pylons from Norwich to Tilbury, currently undergoing a second round of public consultation.

But growing concerns about a lack of well thought-through policies and joined up thinking prompted three branches of CPRE – Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk (the Suffolk Preservation Society), to commission a report by Dr Andy Tickle, an independent planning and campaign consultant who has worked on energy, planning and environmental issues for over 40 years.

Dr Tickle’s report ‘Greening the Great Grid Upgrade’, provides a detailed critique as to the programme’s strengths and weaknesses and how it might be improved in ways designed to reduce the impacts on the countryside and ensure that impacted communities are properly heard.

In essence, the report considers that National Grid is hurrying ahead too fast with its plans, risking leaving a legacy of individual projects that may be surplus to our energy requirements, do not integrate with each other, fail to maximise their full environmental benefits and marginalise affected communities.

Chris Dady, chair of CPRE Norfolk welcomed Dr Tickle’s detailed findings:
“This is an evidenced and thoughtful report that far from trying to undermine the UK achieving a decarbonised and secure energy system, seeks to ensure that such a programme has the greatest chances of success, based on best practice, strategic thinking and public support.”

David Knight, chair of CPRE Essex:
“At the moment, National Grid seem to be in panic mode and are hurrying through their ‘consultations’ without having all the facts to hand. Quick decisions are usually bad ones with the costs racked up and paid for many times over in future years.”

The report makes 7 key recommendations, but in essence there are three core asks of both National Grid and the Government:

1. Draw breath.

Work on the Norwich to Tilbury scheme needs to be halted to properly investigate the various offshore and underground solutions proposed by expert bodies and campaign groups, especially in light of evidence that the costs associated with such schemes has been over-estimated by National Grid. There are also serious questions that need addressing by National Grid regarding its overestimation of the urgency of the proposed connection.

2. Listen more.

It is vital that National Grid adheres to Government commitments for earlier and more meaningful consultation, including the use of local design panels and community forums. There needs to be a fair, transparent and flexible community benefits policy that prioritises sustainability goals (including energy transition) and community and environmental betterment. Any community benefit funds need to be properly resourced and run, using experienced independent facilitators.

3. Deliver better.

Greater ambition and focus are required, especially in securing increased offshore co-ordination, if the volume of transmission infrastructure, including pylons is to be reduced. There must be a greater focus on delivering a new ‘Great Green Grid’ via the new Electricity Transmission Design Principles where more innovative technology could protect and enhance landscapes, amenity, biodiversity and heritage whilst helping rural communities achieve their low carbon goals.


Robert Townshend, chair of Suffolk Preservation Society added:
“This report couldn’t be clearer for those of us who both support a decarbonised and secure electricity transmission system AND wish to seize the chance for better designed infrastructure that protects our precious countryside and sustainable community involvement. We all need to draw breath, listen more and deliver better.”

CPRE Norfolk, SPS, and CPRE Essex are sharing this report with MPs, Parliamentary candidates, local councils and campaigning groups to help put pressure on both National Grid and the Government to improve the principles for the future rollout of the Great Grid Upgrade.

Read the report here

Electricity pylons over farmland
Image by luctheo from Pixabay