New electricity pylons will 'carve up' the countryside, opponents claim

A map showing the new proposed power line through south Norfolk.

A map provided by National Grid shows the proposed route of the new power line, in purple. The line itself would run somewhere within the width of the purple band. Norwich can be seen to the north-east. The blue lines are existing cables. - Credit: National Grid/Google

Plans for a new overhead electricity line to run across south Norfolk, and beyond into Suffolk and Essex, have come up against opposition from campaigners.  

National Grid is currently consulting with residents about their 'East Anglia GREEN' project, which they say is needed to help the UK achieve its ambition of net zero emissions by 2050 - and because the current infrastructure is not fit for purpose. 

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said the proposed pylons would have a "negative impact" on unspoilt countryside.

In a message on their website, National Grid states: “East Anglia’s 400 kV electricity transmission network was built in the 1960s.

“It was built to supply regional demand, centred around Norwich and Ipswich.

Hundreds of homes in north Norfolk have been left without power after a high voltage line fault. Pho

The pylons would be 45-50m high. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

“With the growth in new energy generation from offshore wind, nuclear power and interconnection with other countries, there will be more electricity connected in East Anglia than the network can currently accommodate.”

The new proposed line would run south from a substation at Dunston, near Norwich.

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The pylons would typically be 45-50m high, with the cable running parallel to an existing power line to the west, which is itself west of and parallel to the A140 road.

The railway line to London would meanwhile lie between the new and existing power lines. 

At the county’s southern edge, it would exit into Suffolk by passing between Bressingham and Roydon, near Diss, before heading to its destination at Tilbury, on the Thames estuary. 

The CPRE are among those with reservations about the proposal, saying it would damage the landscape.

David Hook, chair of the CPRE’s ‘Vision for Norfolk’ committee, said: “It’s a pity that when they’re doing all this new work to upgrade transmission, that they don’t use this as an opportunity to bury the cables - and also to bury existing cable lines. 

Light pollution campaigner David Hook of Hempnall for EDP2 feature on environmental campaigners.
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Light pollution campaigner David Hook of Hempnall for EDP2 feature on environmental campaigners. Photo: Angela Sharpe Copy: Emma Lee For: EDP2 Archant pics © 2009 (01603) 772434 - Credit: Archant © 2009

“There’s a tacit admittance that they have a negative impact on the landscape, because when it gets to the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Suffolk, they’re going to bury them there. So they know that they have a negative impact on the landscape. 

“Part of me dislikes the distinction, where people refer to ‘ordinary’ countryside as opposed to ‘beautiful’ countryside, because I think all countryside is beautiful and it should all be protected.”

Addressing the cost of burying the cables, Mr Hook said: “I know it’s more expensive but this is a major investment for many, many years.

“There’s negative impacts on the landscape through [underground] cabling but at least they do heal, and they can be covered up, and planted over.

“Given that the existing ones [pylons] have been there since the 1960s, it’s not going to be a temporary feature.”

He added: “We appreciate they need to transmit the electricity and cater for additional [voltage] coming from offshore wind, but this is the wrong solution.”

Mr Hook’s concerns were shared by Shelfanger Parish Council chair Stephen Groom, who called the proposal “disappointing” and questioned whether the cables could run undersea to Tilbury, rather than overland. 

Stephen Groom, chairman of Shelfanger Parish Council

Stephen Groom, chairman of Shelfanger Parish Council, was among those with concerns about the proposals. - Credit: Stephen Groom

“I get that they’re trying to reduce carbon emissions and make green energy, but at what cost? At the cost of carving up the countryside?” said Mr Groom. 

Bressingham Parish Council’s chair, Amanda McMurray, meanwhile said: “We welcome access to the best standard of electricity that will enable us all to operate efficiently in the years to come.”

She added however that the pylons’ visual impact “could well be an issue” for some residents living closest to them.

“People appreciate their views of open fields, and it’s possible that there will be objections to pylons going across the skyline.

“I think it would be appropriate to consider carefully whether the cabling can go underground.” 

Responding to the visual concerns about overhead lines, a spokeswoman for National Grid said: “We are in the early stages of developing the East Anglia GREEN project and are asking for feedback from local communities on our proposed route and any local information will be welcomed. 

Electricity pylons. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Electricity pylons. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire - Credit: PA

“The National Policy Statements set out that overhead lines will often be appropriate when we are developing new proposals like this, and therefore, our starting point will be to consider new overhead lines.

“Planning policy recognises that there will be some places where overhead lines are not appropriate, for example, at particularly sensitive locations.

“For this reason we are proposing underground cables where the route crosses the Dedham Vale AONB.”

Information about the project, including the opportunity to have your say on it, can be found by visiting: https://www.nationalgrid.com/electricity-transmission/network-and-infrastructure/infrastructure-projects/about-east-anglia-green