Home   Southwold   Article

Subscribe Now

East Suffolk residents and community leaders, including Southwold councillor David Beavan and Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Thérèse Coffey, react to LionLink proposals





Residents and community leaders have had their say on the chosen infrastructure sites and routes for a major energy project.

Earlier this month, National Grid announced Southwold or Walberswick, Saxmundham and Friston as its proposed locations for a landfall site, converter station and substation as part of the LionLink project.

The reaction amongst East Suffolk residents and officials has been overwhelmingly negative, with questions asked over why the area has been chosen given it is an eroding coastline and a thriving conservation zone.

The LionLink proposals, which involve Southwold, Walberswick, Saxmundham and Friston, have been overwhelmingly negatively received by residents and community leaders. Picture: National Grid
The LionLink proposals, which involve Southwold, Walberswick, Saxmundham and Friston, have been overwhelmingly negatively received by residents and community leaders. Picture: National Grid

National Grid said there was no fully offshore solution and minimising environmental disruption was at the forefront of the project, considering both marine and land impacts and the long-term benefits would outweigh the short-term negatives.

The programme, which would join offshore wind power between the UK and the Netherlands, could bring an estimated £300 million in savings for UK customers within its first decade of operation and would have the capacity to power approximately 2.5 million UK homes a year.

“Well it’s an absolutely crazy idea,” said David Beavan, deputy leader of East Suffolk Council. “We’ve had a meeting locally, Walberswick and Southwold are going to work on this together.

David Beavan, deputy leader of East Suffolk Council, said the LionLink proposals were a ‘ridiculous idea’.
David Beavan, deputy leader of East Suffolk Council, said the LionLink proposals were a ‘ridiculous idea’.

“We think both sites are a ridiculous idea. To ruin the countryside on an eroding coast, why not keep it offshore and take it down to London – that’s where they need the energy.

“Why can’t they just carry it on down, they don’t need to dig up our valuable conservation sites and ruin our tourism industry.”

Cllr Beavan said he felt everyone in the area was speaking with one voice regarding the proposals and that locally councils would be lodging their views early.

LionLink will have a landfall site at either Southwold or Walberswick, a converter station in Saxmundham and a proposed substation in Friston. Picture: National Grid
LionLink will have a landfall site at either Southwold or Walberswick, a converter station in Saxmundham and a proposed substation in Friston. Picture: National Grid

Richard Rout, deputy leader of Suffolk County Council, has also spoken out against the plans, calling them ‘totally unacceptable’.

John Huggins, who lives in Southwold, echoed Cllr Beavan’s sentiments, saying: “Easton Bavents, Southwold and Walberswick are all vulnerable to coastal erosion, so I am opposed to digging into cliffs and land around by the large scale groundworks needed to bring these cables ashore.”

The joint project, between National Grid and Dutch system operator TenneT, would run undersea cables from the Netherlands to the UK, which would then need to be converted to alternating current onshore.

Dr Thérèse Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, has continued her opposition to LionLink. Picture: UK Parliament
Dr Thérèse Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, has continued her opposition to LionLink. Picture: UK Parliament

Landfall sites at Southwold or Walberswick were advanced as they offer a shorter and less intrusive offshore cable route, meaning fewer cable crossings and less marine disruption.

Dr Thérèse Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, continued her opposition to the proposals and, similar to Cllr Beavan, said brownfield sites closer to London should be used, making the case for the Isle of Grain.

“Ultimately, though, there is still a long way to go before final permissions are granted, including NGV (National Grid Ventures) having to undertake a detailed environmental impact assessment,” she said.

“That will not be easy for them to justify considering the impact this would have on the specially protected sites in the Blyth Estuary.”

Suffolk Energy Action Solutions founder Fiona Gillmore has questioned National Grid’s approach to LionLink and thinks it is a ‘national tragedy’. Picture: SEAS
Suffolk Energy Action Solutions founder Fiona Gillmore has questioned National Grid’s approach to LionLink and thinks it is a ‘national tragedy’. Picture: SEAS

Fiona Gillmore, founder of Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (SEAS), questioned National Grid’s consultations and approach and the impact construction would have on wildlife and tourism.

“They say it (the consultations) has been thorough but they haven’t listened,” she said. “I think it’s a national tragedy.

“Their studies failed to notice the River Hundred, which has 875 recorded species such as the water vole, otter and hairy dragonfly.”

Ms Gillmore said the impact on wildlife would mean species which have had their homes on the Suffolk coast for hundreds of year would be displaced and not return.

A temporary construction corridor will be required during the construction phase, which is expected to be 30m wide.

National Grid said the width was necessary to protect topsoil as well as facilitate other environmental mitigation, so that it can return the land to the state it found it.

The LionLink project ran an eight-week public consultation last autumn detailing five possible cable routes the project could take across the region, along with five possible converter site locations, with more than 2,000 people engaged across that time.

Pamela Cyprien, chairperson of Reydon Parish Council, said: “The concerns we have are many. We think there should be a proper environmental impact assessment.

“Our general feeling is that NGV aren’t taking any notice of what people are saying, that they haven’t really taken into account the impact on the environment and businesses, bearing in mind this is a tourist area.”

Cllr Cyprien also questioned how construction would fit into the existing network, suggesting the area did not have the road infrastructure to house construction vehicles.

Gareth Burden, construction director at National Grid, said LionLink will strengthen the UK's energy security and lower bills for consumers. Picture: National Grid
Gareth Burden, construction director at National Grid, said LionLink will strengthen the UK's energy security and lower bills for consumers. Picture: National Grid

Gareth Burden, construction director for National Grid, said putting infrastructure offshore would not remove the need for onshore construction given cables will need to run through.

Onshore converter stations and substations were still needed to convert the electricity, from high voltage direct current to high voltage alternating current, and connect the energy into the electricity grid, he said.

He also mentioned the possibility of a single converter station site for LionLink and another project Sea Link, which would reinforce the electricity network between Suffolk and Kent.

“The purpose of this project is to bolster the security of Great Britain’s energy supply rather than specific areas,” he said. “Like all other energy sources in the UK, the energy brought to the UK via LionLink would be distributed across the UK through the National Transmission system.

“We understand people have concerns about how the project will impact their community. We are working with local business groups and tourism representatives to understand their concerns and discuss the potential impact of the project on important local industries.

“We are committed to minimising the environmental impact as we plan the project which includes marine impacts as well as land.”

Mr Burden added that a socioeconomic impact assessment will be done before the next phase of consultation.

NGV will be consulting with communities again next year.