Joseph Watts, Political editor
Friday, January 11, 2013
The minister for planning has hit out at “ugly pylons” which he said people would not want to see “march across the landscape” after hearing how the structures could be built across the Norfolk Broads.
Nick Boles was speaking to the Eastern Daily Press, which launched its Say No To Pylons campaign last year, when he made the comments.
National Grid officials have drawn up indicative proposals to connect North Sea wind turbines to the main grid, which would see pylons in the Waveney and Yare valleys.
Mr Boles explained that he could not explicitly back the EDP’s campaign because to do so would go against the principle of local decision making which he supports.
However, he went on: “What I can do is remind you and your readers that the National Planning Policy Framework which sets national policy, is extremely clear about what is and isn’t, firstly, acceptable on environmental impact.
“Secondly [it sets out] what are protected areas; and there are different degrees of [protection] and the broads probably sits in a number of those depending on which bit of the broads you are talking about, but those protections are very firm.”
Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of South Norfolk Council have already unanimously backed a motion stating they would not support anything other than underground cables unless it was demonstrated that another solution was “environmentally sound and sustainable”.
Mr Boles continued: “It’s for local councils to decide but the [NPPF} policies are very clear. A major impact on Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Park or anything like that, is not something that policy supports.
“Speaking as a punter I suspect most of us would prefer ugly pylons to be buried rather than march across the landscape.”
Councillors have pledged to work closely with the Broads Authority to oppose pylons in the Broads and Waveney Valley and have said they would write to National Grid and any other agencies setting out their position.
Meanwhile Mr Boles’ comments come just days after the president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said the coalition was failing to protect the countryside by relaxing planning rules.
In a magazine article Sir Andrew Motion said the government was allowing inappropriate roads and hundreds of pylons to be built across rural England.
He said: “The environment is foremost in people’s minds, not just because disasters like the recent flooding and ash dieback disease increase our consciousness of what is at risk, but because we’re hearing government pronouncements that betray a wider pattern of neglect for the landscape.”
He went on: “We are seeing the coalition contradicting David Cameron’s ambition to lead the greenest government ever.
“In a short space of time they have put at risk all kinds of things that have been time-honoured, our spiritual connection to woodland and wilderness.”
Plans for the 25m cable line running from Lowestoft to Norwich are at an early stage with National Grid set to publish more detailed route options this year, followed by a full public consultation.
Promoters of the North Sea offshore wind farm which would feed the line say the cables will provide enough renewable energy to power up to five million homes.