Controversial plans to build a line of pylons carrying powerlines through the Norfolk countryside have won the significant backing of the shadow chancellor.

Rachel Reeves said a future Labour government would support the National Grid's proposal for a 112-mile line from Dunston, near Norwich, to Tilbury on the Thames estuary.

The project would involve a string of 45-50m high pylons carrying power generated from windfarms off the Norfolk coast to elsewhere in the country.

The route passes a number of south Norfolk communities and has provoked huge opposition in the area, from the local MP, South Norfolk Council and Norfolk County Council.

But Ms Reeves has given her party's support to the scheme, saying it was "time to get on with it".

Eastern Daily Press: Many people living along the pylon route oppose the schemeMany people living along the pylon route oppose the scheme (Image: Newsquest)On a visit to Norwich this week, she said: "There is a big opportunity for the UK to become the energy leaders of the future and we need to seize that.

"We've got to crack on and build the energy infrastructure to heat our homes and get people's bills down. Renewable energy is the cheapest energy form. 

"Investment is being held back due to a lack of grid connections and if we carry on like this we'll find ourselves increasingly reliant on Putin and other dictators around the world for our basic energy needs.

"If we want to get Putin's boot off our neck then we need to invest in homegrown renewables. Otherwise, we'll find ourselves very insecure."

Eastern Daily Press: Rachel Reeves expressed support for the projectRachel Reeves expressed support for the project (Image: Georgie Taylor)National Grid has said the scheme is vital to help the UK achieve its ambition of net zero emissions by 2050, but critics have said the structures will have a devastating impact on the countryside.

Ms Reeves said it was "important to take into account the views of local people" and suggested they could receive a reduction in their electricity bills in compensation.

"If you're hosting nationally significant infrastructure then you should get something in return for that, such as money off your bills," Ms Reeves added.

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The same proposal was made by prime minister Rishi Sunak last year, but it did not impress local critics of the scheme, who accused the government of offering "token cash bribes".

Campaigners have called for National Grid to bury the cables or run the line offshore.

Underground cables will bring the power from the coast to Norwich, but the power company says that using such alternatives south from Norwich would add huge amounts to energy bills and might mean reduced capacity.

Poppy Simister-Thomas, Tory candidate for South Norfolk, criticised Ms Reeves' comments.

"I am incredibly disappointed that Labour says it is planning to build these pylons through some of south Norfolk’s most beautiful countryside.

"Residents don’t want pay-outs, they want a different plan that protects their local area.

"Labour needs to commit to an integrated offshore grid, so green energy doesn’t come at the cost of our local environment."

Eastern Daily Press: Poppy Simister-Thomas, Conservative candidate for South NorfolkPoppy Simister-Thomas, Conservative candidate for South Norfolk (Image: Poppy Simister-Thomas)National Grid first started consultations about its proposals in April 2022, when the project was known as 'East Anglia GREEN'. 

Now known as Norwich to Tilbury, the scheme has been a source of concern for those who believe the pylons will lead to the "annihilation of the countryside".

The project has received pushback from Norfolk MPs Richard Bacon, George Freeman and Jerome Mayhew, joined by the likes of former home secretary Priti Patel, whose Essex constituency would also be affected.

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said: "The way in which electricity is generated and used is fundamentally changing so we all need to understand that the national grid must respond to renewable generation and electric vehicles.

"But that doesn't mean that we should settle for disfiguring the most valued landscapes or fence Diss in with towering structures.

"Our county needs and requires a more intelligent approach to reinforcing our electricity transmission network - and that includes considering offshore options rather than simply settling for pylons."