Latest pylon news from West Country MPs

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By Carol_Deacon | Friday, December 13, 2013, 17:24

West Country MPs Tessa Munt and Liam Fox have been holding top level talks about pylons with the Energy Minister Michael Fallon.

On Monday afternoon Mrs Munt and Dr Fox discussed their shared concerns about the approach of National Grid to using alternatives to pylons in North Somerset and Wells constituencies.

Local communities expect National Grid to submit an application in Spring 2014 to permit the march of huge pylons across the sensitive landscape of the Somerset countryside.

The Somerset MPs used the meeting to explain to the Minister that unless he steps in, National Grid may be able to state merely that it has consulted local people, but will not be required to show how the concerns, suggestions and questions of 8,000 locals who responded have been taken into account and have shaped its plans.

The Somerset MPs also pointed out the National Grid's failure to provide accurate lifetime costs for placing cables undersea - the most logical thing to do as the electricity must be transmitted between two coastal points: Hinkley and Avonmouth. 

The costs for a route adjacent to the M5 should also be considered, the MPs told the Minister.

Dr Fox said: "We expressed our intense frustration about the lack of consistent data. 

"How can we or our constituents make judgements about alternative methods of transitions when the goalposts keep moving?"

Mrs Munt said: "Whenever I have pressed National Grid, I have been told time and time again that placing cables undersea is not an option – the company says it just can't be done.

"Meanwhile we can all see this happening around the rest of the UK and it is standard practice for companies in Europe."

Local constituents in North Somerset and Wells feel that they have no power to influence National Grid's plans and are becoming demoralised by the process. 

Many have pointed out that the current proposals to place power lines along the top of ridges appear nonsensical, while the continually shifting cost estimates do not allow for any proper comparisons. 

As a result, there is no opportunity for the people whose countryside will be affected by the changes to have a rational debate about what technologies and social impact they are willing to accept when the application is submitted in spring.

While Environmental Impact Assessments are quite rightly complex documents showing the effect of changes on the environment, National Grid is compelled to carry out a Social Impact Assessment, but little guidance exists to show what that documentation should reveal.

Both MPs stress that the green energy policy could notsimply relate to generation but include transmission and its impact on the physical environment.

Dr Fox pointed out that in his 20 years as an MP, National Grid had been the most difficult and frustrating of companies to deal with.  

Both MPs are hopeful that Mr Fallon will insist that common sense prevails, for the sake of the people and countryside of Wells and North Somerset.

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