Councils urge ‘joined-up thinking’ over energy infrastructure in the east

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are calling for an urgent government review of the number and scale of “potentially devasting” energy infrastructure projects for local communities.

The leaders of both councils have written to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, calling for a wider review of the strategic planning of energy infrastructure including 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”.

Their call follows both councils’ recent objections to National Grid’s non-statutory consultation on proposals for the East Anglia GREEN project of overhead lines between Norwich, Bramford and Tilbury.

The proposal would reinforce the network and help deliver the government’s net zero ambitions through increasing amounts of renewable and low-carbon energy generation across the East Anglia region.

However, it would also see an additional line of pylons and cables installed, cutting across Mid Suffolk and Babergh, affecting the two districts’ communities, businesses, and environment.

Instead, the councils are calling for greater clarity about options for a co-ordinated offshore solution.

Mid Suffolk District Council leader Suzie Morley said: “We fully recognise the importance of the government’s net zero agenda and the need for ongoing energy security for our communities, but we have serious concerns at the seeming lack of strategic coordination of the delivery of energy generation, transmission, and distribution development proposals across the region.

“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.

“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 District Council leader John Ward said: “Our councils overriding preference is for a co-ordinated, offshore approach to deliver the transmission network reinforcement objectives of the various projects in the region and elsewhere in the UK to minimise onshore infrastructure and the associated impacts on our communities, businesses, and environment.

“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 co-ordination 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.

In the meantime, the councils are urging residents, businesses, councillors, parish councils and campaign groups to make their concerns about East Anglia GREEN known to National Grid.

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