Category Archives: Offshore WIndfarm

Toothless? Is Suffolk’s heritage coast still protected?

 

Southwold beach with little children playing. Behind them is the sea, in the distance, SizewellSizewell
Southwold beach, looking towards Sizewell

As the County Councillor for Woodbridge I raised following significant concerns about East Suffolk’s final modifications to the wording -and in my opinion, the intentions – of the  Suffolk Coastal Local Plan.  The two most concerning points are:

1 Weakening of conditions concerning Major Infrastructure Projects in Suffolk Coastal
First and foremost, I am deeply concerned about the nature of several of these last-minute changes – which lead to the clear weakening of local powers in relation to Major Infrastructure Projects, and a consequent negative impact on local communities and the Suffolk coastal countryside.

 Worryingly, in terms of the recent Sizewell C submission and the Scottish Power application, the community benefits which in the previous document the SCPL stated “will need to be delivered” from major energy development projects now only “may be required.” This is a very concerning reduction in emphasis and leaves many local communities at significant risk.

Previously the Local Plan called for packages “ to offset and compensate” “ the burden and disturbance” experienced by local communities. These words have now been watered down to merely express an ambition that these companies should “mitigate the impacts.” This is milquetoast wording and again is letting down local communities who will significantly disbenefit from major energy infrastructure projects.

 

Again,the rewording of this policy (SCLP3.5) now reduces the obligation of developers, so they only contribute to infrastructure “as necessary.” Who defines what is necessary? What if the developers choose to disagree? This change must not be made if this plan is to benefit the residents of Suffolk rather than the developers.

I am told that the explanation East Suffolk has given for these changes “ is to better align the policy with the National Planning Policy Framework, which the plan needs to be compatible with.” I am afraid I do not believe this is the case, especially as this lack of alignment seems only to have been discovered at the eleventh hour.

It is clear that the interests of the people of Suffolk Coastal would require that the original wording was retained.

Woodbridge Shire Hall in the nineteenth century

2 In “Areas to be protected from development”: I notice with concern that an entire policy (Policy SLP11.9 Areas to be Protected from Development, and supporting text) has simply been deleted.

Within modifications doc, Modifications MM49, it simply says “Delete Policy SLP11.9 Areas to be Protected from Development, and supporting text.” To refresh failing memories:

Policy SCLP11.9 was : Areas to be Protected from Development Areas to be protected from development as identified on the Policies Map comprise local scale sites, gaps, gardens and spaces that make an important contribution to the character and setting of a settlement in their unaltered form. In some locations these areas maintain settlement separation. Accordingly, development within these areas will be severely restricted to maintain the character of the area and ensure settlement coalescence is not compromised.

Martlesham creek: people have lived along this stretch of the Deben for many thousands of years

My question is Why has Policy SCLP11.9 been deleted? My concern is, Why should it be deleted? It is concerning for residents thoughout Suffolk Coastal , and for me as Woodbridge County Councillor as of course a lot of Woodbridge consists of areas to be protected from development. When read in relation to point 1 above, it is particularly concerning

I am told that this deletion is is because the inspector wished to be given greater evidence of the need to have a specific designation on these areas of land. East Suffolk did not elect to provide this evidence – which is extremely worrying.

I have been assured the protection remains, covered by other documents. I wish I could be certain. By the time one says ‘Ooops’ – it is generally too late. This is particularly the case with the heritage coast.

I raised other significant issues -especially in relation to reduction in 1 and 2 person housing numbers, and the need for more teeth in asserting public transport needs which I am happy to share.

However these two points above are crucial in terms of the long-term survival, wellbeing – indeed the very existence of our heritage coast.  That these major modifications to the wording and intention of this document should  occur so late and in such an opaque fashion should concern everyone.

Staverton Thicks – – an emblem of the unchanging nature of our Suffolk Coastal countryside

I hope my District Council colleagues will pick this one up and hold the council to account.

 

 

Dukes Park and East Anglia ONE

My inbox has been buzzing with anxious emails this week  from people worried about a possible planning application for land adjoining Dukes Park. Although planning is a District Council issue it is in Woodbridge County division,and  is  also the site through which the EA One underground high tension cabling is due to be routed. As this appeared to have slipped under the radar of both residents and district council until I raised it last Monday,  I contacted the EA ONE  link officer at Suffolk County Council. I wanted to know if he had definitive information on the separation necessary between  housing development and underground high tension cables. closeup EA1

Here is his brief resume of the status quo and implications as he sees it:

East Anglia ONE have acquired both permanent and temporary rights for land within the Order Limits (red line boundary). The exact location of these rights however would not be determined until the project is being built, because the final positioning of the cables is not known. What we know now is that the corridor depicted on the plans is generally 75m wide though only 55m is needed for construction and this could lie anywhere within the 75m swathe. The final footprint for the operational development will be 42m The rights that have been acquired are set out within Schedule 6 of the Development Consent Order  . The permanent rights within the cable corridor generally provide for the retention of cables/ducts together with a surface right of access for occasional maintenance. Lands subject to temporary rights (i.e the ‘surplus’ 33m) would be returned to the current owner post construction (that is, around 2020). However as the SCC link officer understands it:

“…restrictive covenants are also in place. Activities within the Order Limits are prohibited as below. The footprint of the land these rights cover would diminish from the construction (75m) to operational phase (42m), but as I understand it apply to the full 75m currently: (a) prevent anything to be done in or upon the Order land or any part thereof for the purpose of the erection of any buildings or construction erection or works of any kind (including the foundations or footings thereto); (b) prevent anything to be done by way of hard surfacing of the Order land with concrete of any kind or with any other material or surface whatsoever without the consent in writing of the undertaker (such consent not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed if the proposed surfacing would not cause damage to relevant part of the authorised project nor make it materially more difficult or expensive to maintain the authorised project); (c) prevent anything to be done by way of excavation of any kind in the Order land nor any activities which increase or decrease ground cover or soil levels in any manner whatsoever without the consent in writing of the undertaker save as are reasonably required for agricultural activities or are required to be carried out by National Grid in order to exercise their rights in relation to their apparatus within the Order land; (d) prevent the planting or growing within the Order land of any trees, shrubs or underwood without the consent in writing of the undertaker (such consent not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed provided that the proposed trees, shrubs or underwood would not cause damage to the relevant part of the authorised project nor make it materially more difficult or expensive to access the relevant part of the authorised project). Consequently very little can happen within the area covered by the Order Limits at the moment. The extent of that redline boundary will shrink in due course, but even in that remaining area, no buildings could erected.”

The officer points out that land outside the Order Limits, and any land used during construction once returned to its original owner is not subject to any East Anglia ONE restrictive covenants. However it would be  on each side of the cabling  area. Requests for any further specific elucidation  are probably best directed to:

Joanna Young,  Stakeholder Manager ScottishPower Renewables East Anglia Offshore Wind, Room 101, OrbisEnergy, Wilde Street, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 1XH. jyoung@scottishpower.com

Proposed cabling works: Martlesham creek & Sandy Lane

While local people are concerned about the potential  impact of the Sizewell C building works on our local community, few have yet recognised the likely grave impact  on Woodbridgeof proposed  large-scale onshore cabling works   from the off-shore windfarm .

This is perhaps not surprising: I was only alerted a couple of days before the  consultation ended that the proposed cabling route would enter the Woodbridge division, when i was first shown a map of the route – and I had to tell SCC officers this impacted on us, rather than the other way round!

The proposal is for buried cabling – which many consider more aesthetic than  pylons, but which will be cutting a 55metre-wide swathe across a significant distance of unspoiled Suffolk coastal countryside:  from Bawdsey, across the Deben estuary, travelling north past  Newbourne, Waldringfield, tunnelling under Martlesham creek, and turning west  on our very own Sandy Lane, where there will be a ‘Primary construction consolidation site’ whatever that might be.

My response as your local County Councillor to the preliminary consultation is below:

“Although I recognise it is a need for aesthetic sensitivity that has driven the planning of onshore delivery of underground cabling for the EAONE windfarm, we also need to recognise fully that the proposed underground cabling will cut a swathe 55mtres wide through the countryside for most of the distance between Bawdsey and Bramford. This will have a terrible impact on ancient trees (particularly, as East Anglia ONE acknowledges, in Newbourne and Martlesham) and we have been told there can be no tree replanting over the top.

 the cable at Woodbridge
the cable at Woodbridge

It may be  therefore, that this will have a greater impact on portions of the route than pylons. We know of no pylon that is more than a few decades old – yet many of the trees that will have to go will have lived for centuries.

The planned works will take place over a couple of years, from, I believe, 2015. During this time there will be a considerable impact both on– and off-road. I’m not talking only of the valued footpath infrastructure, but the fact that these works will cross-over with the proposed Sizewell C building – and the proposed housing development at Martlesham. This will be rather a triple whammy for our section of Suffolk Coastal.

Responding on behalf of the people of Woodbridge as a whole I would like to say that we do understand that the need for this cabling is for the greater good of the population of the UK – but we need you to understand that we  need adequate and appropriate mitigation (to put it mildly) of the disruption – with all longterm negative impacts to the beauty of our timeless landscape prevented as much as humanly possible.

I am yet to be convinced of good reasons as to why the cables cannot be in the estuary – or on the waterline – for much of the distance to Bramford as was originally proposed.

My underlying feeling is that we along the Deben estuary should not be bearing the brunt of development for the good of the nation as a whole, without scheme recognising the full importance of this – and putting time and effort into ensuring minimum impact, and compensating us adequately for what impact there has to be on the environment!”