Warwick Energy reveals plans for Necton substation

Plans to build a new electricity substation alongside the A47 near Swaffham drew contrasting opinions from villagers at a public exhibition of the proposals.

Warwick Energy displayed designs at Necton Community Centre this afternoon (Tuesday) for the proposed development which would connect the planned Dudgeon offshore wind farm to the National Grid.

The company's first-choice site at Little Dunham was refused permission after a vociferous local campaign and a planning inquiry, with the long-running saga now awaiting the result of a ministerial review following a High Court judgement earlier this month.

And with that uncertainty continuing, Warwick has drawn up fall-back plans for a second site - between the villages of Necton and Fransham - in order to avoid any costly hold-ups to the �1.5bn wind farm, planned for 32km off the north Norfolk coast.

The 15-acre site is smaller than the 23 acres proposed at Little Dunham, with the four large converter buildings removed from the original plans after the project team agreed to use an AC (alternating current) feed from the wind farm.

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If approved, the substation would be built about 780m from the outskirts of the village, with the nearest house only 280m away.

While villagers living close to the proposed substation voiced fears including noise, environmental and visual impact, others at the open day said they preferred the fall-back location to the controversial alternative a few miles away at Little Dunham.

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Louise Willis lives on St Andrew's Lane overlooking fields neighbouring the proposed substation. Her mother Lilian lives at The Grove, near the A47 - one of the closest houses to the development site.

Miss Willis, 33, said: "Surely they can find somewhere else for it. If you look at this lovely landscape it is right slap bang in the middle of it. It is just awful. We all know about climate change and all the rest of it, but why put a greenfield site at risk when there are so many brownfield sites which are ripe for development? There are lots of old airfields and industrial estates, so why build this on a greenfield site at a very sought-after village?

"I think the whole village is going to oppose this. With all the protesting at Little Dunham, I would have thought they would have learned their lesson."

Wendy Brown, 68, from Sporle, was one of the campaigners against the original Little Dunham plans. She said: "If it has got to go somewhere, it seems much more appropriate to go here (at Necton). It is not going to affect village life, and the plans they have got here seem to be more amenable and more appropriate. I don't think this is a problem. I would welcome it."

The highest gantries in the design are 15m tall, but most of the structures are under 10m, with the majority of the site to be screened by woodland, including a 500m stretch alongside the closest part of the A47.

Warwick Energy's project director Mark Petterson said: "Necton is the second best site after Little Dunham, but it is still a good site. "Our view is that this is more visually intrusive as you have a thousand times more people travelling down the A47 than down the Little Dunham road.

"But it is all subjective. All the Little Dunham people said consistently that it should go here in Necton. And we have had some interesting discussions with people from Necton saying it should be at Little Dunham. We really don't mind, as long as we get our substation."

Mr Petterson said the choice of locations was limited because the substation needed to connect to the 400kV electrical "supergrid" running between King's Lynn and Norwich.

He said: "Theoretically, we could have built it away from the supergrid, but the only way to connect it would be with new overhead lines. We were told very early on by local planners in North Norfolk and Breckland that, whatever we do, we should not build new overhead lines. If we could have found a brownfield site under the existing overhead power lines, we would have gone there. But every single available site is a farm field.

"We have waited two-and-a-half years for Little Dunham and we are running out of time. This substation is only 5pc of the project cost, but it has the potential to hold up the other 95pc. It is not ideal to run the two sites in parallel, as it causes some confusion in those communities, but we are left with the job of trying to keep the project on track and the only way to that is to run both sites in parallel."

Detailed environmental impact assessments are still being prepared, and a full planning application is expected to be made in June.

?To register your views on the consultation, call 0800 035 2874 or email consultation@dudgeonoffshorewindfarm.co.uk.

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