Warwick Energy to display substation plans at Necton, near Swaffham

A public exhibition will outline 'fallback' plans for an electricity substation at a village near Swaffham – with the original proposed site nearby still being vociferously opposed.

Warwick Energy needs to build a National Grid connection for its planned Dudgeon offshore wind farm, to be located 32km off the north Norfolk coast.

The preferred substation site at Little Dunham was refused permission after staunch community objections about the potential impact on the village.

That refusal was subsequently upheld by a planning inspector and the secretaries of state for energy and communities – but the two ministers must now revisit their decision following a High Court appeal ruling earlier this month.

And while that uncertainty continues, Warwick has drawn up designs for its next-best option, on 15 acres of land near the A47 between the villages of Necton and Little Fransham.

A full planning application is expected in June, but in the meantime, neighbouring villagers have been urged to visit one of two public exhibitions in Necton Community Centre.

Warwick Energy's project director Mark Petterson said: 'In our view, Little Dunham is still the best site but it has come to a point where we could not sit and wait and hope; we needed to pursue a fall-back option as well.

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'Necton is our second choice, but it is still a good site. The main concern at Little Dunham was the proximity to the village, and the Necton site has a much bigger distance to the nearest population centre. We have also improved the design during the last two years so it will have a lower impact. The four big converter stations will no longer be a part of the design, irrespective of location.

'Consistently through the Little Dunham consultation, people said they thought the substation would be better placed in Necton. Hopefully the people in Necton will be happy with it.

'This will not be the end of the process, because if the application goes in there will be a formal consultation through the council. But this is an opportunity where members of the project team will be able to answer direct questions.'

James Watling, Necton parish clerk, said the parish council would not form an opinion on the plans until they had seen the details.

'This is a big development and from what we understand at the moment it is going to be completely different to the one proposed at Little Dunham,' he said. 'We wholeheartedly encourage everybody to go and have a look at these open days.

'In some form, this may impact on the village but until we get detailed proposals we are in the dark. We want to hear the views of the residents so that when the parish council comes to make a decision on how to respond, we know how people feel about it.'

The consultation events will be held at Necton Community Centre on Tuns Road in Necton today (13th), between midday and 7pm and on Tuesday (17th) between 1pm and 8pm.

Key members of the project team will be on hand to answer questions and there will be displays on the substation proposals, the associated section of buried cabling and the engineering and environmental studies being undertaken.

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