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Richard Rout, of Suffolk County Council, and Tom Daly, of East Suffolk Council, express concerns after National Grid launch fresh Sea Link consultation





Two Suffolk councils have expressed their concerns after a fresh consultation on a major energy project was launched.

SuffolkNews reported yesterday that National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) had opened a new consultation on Sea Link, which would link electricty transmission between Suffolk and Kent by undersea cables.

The project requires some onshore elements including underground cabling and new power stations, which has raised concerns among those on the coast about the impact on things such as tourism and the environment.

National Grid launched a fresh Sea Link consultation yesterday. Picture: National Grid
National Grid launched a fresh Sea Link consultation yesterday. Picture: National Grid

The new consultation is focused on design changes proposed after the previous consultation, which includes alterations to the cable route north of Aldeburgh, access routes to the Saxmundham station and plans for an access bridge over the River Fromus.

Suffolk County Council (SCC) expressed its concerns over the bridge in particular, which would be used during the construction phase as part of private access to the proposed Saxmundham converter station.

Cllr Richard Rout, SCC’s deputy cabinet member for nationally significant infrastructure projects, said: “Should the Sea Link project go ahead, the bridge will likely have significant impacts on the landscape, adjacent heritage assets, and the water environment.

Cllr Richard Rout said National Grid should under take a ‘comprehensive and transparent review’ of the alternatives. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Cllr Richard Rout said National Grid should under take a ‘comprehensive and transparent review’ of the alternatives. Picture: Suffolk County Council

“The proposed bridge appears to be absolutely the wrong approach, and a disproportionate solution for creating the site access. From our initial look at the plans, there are likely to be more suitable routes, which would be less harmful.”

Cllr Rout said National Grid should under take a ‘comprehensive and transparent review’ of the alternatives.

He added SCC believes access proposals should be integrated with other projects which would minimise disruption on the environment and communities.

Tom Daly, ESC’s cabinet member for energy and climate change, believes the short timescale for the consultation could hinder participartion. Picture: ESC
Tom Daly, ESC’s cabinet member for energy and climate change, believes the short timescale for the consultation could hinder participartion. Picture: ESC

In Suffolk, onshore infrastrucutre includes the aforementioned converter station, a proposed substation at Friston and a landfall somewhere on the coast between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness.

East Suffolk Council (ESC) has also expressed its reservations in light of the fresh consultation and in particular its timings.

It believes the onshore infrastructure will have significant environmental, social and economic impacts.

Cllr Tom Daly, ESC’s cabinet member for energy and climate change, said: “Public perception of the process of NGET activities is key.

“This very short timescale for meaningful consultation as Development Consent Order (DCO) options are refined, threatens positive public perception and effective engagement.

“It will be difficult to justify such a short engagement period that may not even span parish/town council meeting cycles, at this holiday time of year, as effective engagement.”

Cllr Daly appealed to NGET to reconsider the timeframe and extend it to eight weeks, as was the case with the previous consultation from October 24 to December 18.

National Grid said, since the close of the last consultation, it has been reviewing the feedback and carrying out further techincal assessments, which lead to some of the changes.

A spokesperson said: “The refinements and changes we are proposing do not substantially alter the project as a whole; much of our proposal remains largely the same as presented at our consultation last year.

“Our plans for consultation are proportionate with the changes made to our proposals, and we have made the decision to undertake this further period of consultation in line with government guidance, and this approach is consistent with that taken on other National Grid projects in the past.”