Government consultations on major energy projects National Policy Statements and Community Benefits

SPS has submitted full and robust responses to two government consultations on major energy infrastructure this month. 

Our response to the consultation on revisions to the National Policy Statements for energy included our objection to a presumption for overhead transmission lines outside of national designated landscapes such as AONBs.  We think this should be a last resort solution and that alternatives including an offshore grid, onshore co-ordination, rationalisation of existing lines and emerging superconductor technology must be considered. We also question new policy on commercial solar farms calling for a locational hierarchy which prioritises previously developed land and balances landscape, heritage and visual impacts against ease of connecting to the grid. Read our full response here.

The second consultation considers the best ways of securing benefits to communities impacted by electricity transmission infrastructure,  acknowledging that giving earlier and greater say to communities in shaping improvements and mitigations from these massive projects will probably speed up the decision-making process. SPS has raised a number of concerns with the proposals including our belief that any new community benefits systems should apply not only to future projects but retrospectively to ones approved but not started such as Bramford to Twinstead and East Anglian Green. Read our full response here.

Marsh Cottage – more humble heritage under threat

SPS has objected to plans to demolish this unlisted cottage in Wortham, probably dating from the 17th century, and replace it with a substantial 5-bedroom dwelling. The cottage is a good example of a small vernacular building which potentially meets the criteria to be listed and should certainly be treated as a non-designated heritage asset. We have strongly suggested that the applicant is required to submit a heritage assessment and that the views of the heritage team should be sought.

We note that the heritage team has now been consulted and hope that they share our view on the significance of this cottage and resist its demolition. SPS believes that our traditional building stock must adapt to climate change and the challenge of achieving net zero through careful retrofit rather than replacement wherever possible.

White Cottage, Framlingham – application to demolish withdrawn

SPS was pleased to learn that the latest application to demolish the White Cottage at Framlingham has been withdrawn. We have repeatedly raised concerns both with the owner, Framlingham College, and East Suffolk Council regarding the deteriorating state of the cottage, urging that a conservative solution be sought. Despite this, the building has been allowed to deteriorate further and the applicant now argues that it needs to be demolished. It is our view that the loss of the heritage asset should be the last resort and proposals should aim to retain significance rather than recreate something similar but modern.

If the repair of the property is no longer economically viable, we hope that our suggestion to transfer ownership to a suitable conservation body to restore is now seriously considered.

Burstall solar farm – decision to be reconsidered at Mid Suffolk?

In February, a week after Babergh’s planning committee narrowly voted to approve an application to allow solar panels on a 35-hectare site extending across land in both Babergh in Mid Suffolk, the Mid Suffolk council’s planning committee voted the other way – a resounding six votes to one to refuse on grounds including the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land.

Now ENSO Energy, the applicant, has appealed the refusal but has also resubmitted an identical application to Mid Suffolk Council as a ‘free go’. We consider this to be highly irregular, not least because the duplicate application fails to address the reasons for refusal. Accordingly, we have urged that the council hold this application in abeyance pending the outcome of the appeal.

Major Energy schemes – an update on judicial reviews

A High Court Hearing took place on 23/24 May. Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (SEAS) brought a claim on grounds including evidence of a systemic strategy by the applicant for East Anglia 1(N) and East Anglia 2 offshore windfarms (Scottish Power Renewable) of making secret ‘incentive’ payments to landowners with the aim of preventing them from giving evidence to the Examination.  Justice Holgate was unable to give any indication on timing for a ruling, however as he has yet to pass judgment on the Sizewell C Judicial Review, which was held in January, it seems unlikely to be any time soon.  

Meanwhile Substation Action Save East Suffolk (SASES) has now been granted permission to appeal the decision of the Secretary of State to grant development consent orders for the EA1N and EA2 wind farms, which include substations and a National Grid connection hub at Friston, on the two grounds of flood risk and cumulative impact. The date of the hearing has not yet been fixed.

SPS summer events – book now

SPS AGM and garden party

Little Hall, Lavenham, CO10 9HZ at 6pm.

Our annual garden party will take place on Friday 16 June and will include the SPS AGM.

All Members are welcome to join us for an evening in the beautiful garden of our head office in Lavenham.

More details and booking available here

AGM agenda and papers available here

A summer evening at Cockfield Hall, Yoxford

Thursday 13 July 6 pm – 8 pm

By kind invitation of Mr and Mrs Jon Hunt, we are delighted that our summer event will be held at
Cockfield Hall.

We will be joined by internationally renowned landscape architect, Kim Wilkie, who will explain the exciting story of the recent landscape restoration project at the Hall. We will also hear the fascinating story of the Yoxman, a 26 foot sculpture at Cockfield, from the artist Laurence Edwards.

More details and booking available here

May event – An afternoon at Ickworth House and gardens with tea at the Ickworth Hotel

We were delighted to welcome so many SPS members and new faces to Ickworth House on May 15th for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon exploring this National Trust gem – a write-up about our successful event this month is available here.

SPS in the media

East Anglian Daily Times SPS Director’s monthly opinion piece on our responses to the government’s consultations on Community Benefit and National Policy Statements relating to major energy projects – 24 May 2023.

We think the energy consultations are unsatisfactory