National Grid East Anglia GREEN proposals

A non-statutory consultation has commenced on National Grid’s proposed 180km 400kv pylon line from Norwich to Tilbury. The proposed line passes through Suffolk via the substation at Bramford.  SPS staff have attended a number of community information sessions and have prepared a position statement on the proposals which can be read here.

SPS has written to Rt Hon Greg Hands MP, Secretary of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change, in support of East Anglian MPs who have raised serious concerns about the consultation exercise which does not give affected communities a meaningful choice. It presents only one, primarily overgrounded, option which will have serious harmful impacts upon a high number of communities and landscapes in Suffolk. SPS supports the MPs’ call for the option of a sub-sea ring main to be included in the consultation exercise. In addition, we called for a clearer and wider set of opportunities to be set out, including rationalisation of the existing 132kv network, increased opportunities for undergrounding, pylon design and landscape scale strategic mitigation.

SPS has also written to National Grid urging that the consultation period be extended. The “refreshed” Network Operators Assessment and the Holistic Network Design as part of the BEIS Offshore Transmission Network Review, are both imminent and may have significant implications for this project. To ask people to comment when this relevant information is outstanding is not constructive.

We are also in contact with all Babergh and Mid Suffolk parishes which may be impacted by the proposals and will collate the concerns raised by them into our consultation response.

SPS, as a member of the AONB Partnership, has also contributed to a joint Dedham Vale/ Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB consultation response.  SPS Director has also met with the Energy Lead Officer of Suffolk County Council and with campaigners from the Community Planning Alliance and the East Anglian Alliance, both of whom represent community groups affected by transmission upgrade proposals.

‘Appealing Design – The evidence of planning appeals and the need to reject poor and mediocre housing design’.

The Place Alliance in connection with the RTPI, Civic Voice and others has recently published a report which finds that the Planning Inspectorate now places considerably greater emphasis on good design as a principal determinant of planning appeal decisions. This follows 2021 revisions NPPF in July 2021 which elevated the importance of good design.  SPS is committed to encouraging high standards of development reflecting the local distinctiveness of Suffolk and hopes that this study will reassure local authorities that they will be able to successfully defend decisions to refuse poor quality design. We have written to some of the county’s local authorities questioning how they anticipate identifying the requisite design skills for officers and elected members to improve design quality (by refusal of schemes where necessary) and whether they would consider identifying a Design Champion or are considering other possible initiatives.

Bury St Edmunds hospital

SPS has reviewed a hybrid application for the new West Suffolk hospital on a site adjacent to the existing hospital in Bury St Edmunds.  We echoed the concerns of local people that the additional traffic generated will be disruptive to the local road network, but acknowledged that the location of the new hospital was established as the preferred site in 2020 and that SPS would therefore not enter into a debate on the choice of location for this substantial development.

The site will include Hardwick Manor and its walled garden which were added to the statutory list earlier this year. It is clear that the physical impacts of the proposed new hospital will result in significant effects to the parkland setting of these grade II listed heritage assets, but SPS agrees that the public benefit of providing a new required health facility outweighs this heritage harm. SPS supports the change of use of Hardwick Manor to sustainable health-related uses and consider that the Manor and its gardens could make a positive contribution to the overall hospital site.

However, we called for all options to mitigate the visual impact of the new hospital buildings – through additional buffer planting, as well as through the careful choice of form, materials and micrositing of the proposed hospital buildings – to be fully explored. SPS also urged that the opportunity is taken to carry out comprehensive conservative repairs and alterations to the Manor, which are sympathetic to and reveal its original character.

Levelling up and Regeneration Bill

Announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month, the Planning elements are wide ranging. Much of the detail remains outstanding and only time will tell as to whether the Bill will positively reform Planning.

On first reading this Bill contains a potential power grab by central government through a reform of the Local Plan Making process and creation of National Development Management Policy which will trump a Local Plan. The legal “presumption in favour of the development plan” will shift to a legal presumption in favour of the National Development Management Plan.

It is unclear what a NDMP looks like, but effectively it’s anything the Government says it should be which relates to development or use of land in England. Under the new regime, local plans cannot repeat or be inconsistent with anything in any NDMP.

This may lead to more consistency and thereby to better decision-making. But it’s a radically different approach to what we have been working with for the past few decades and it remains less than clear how this shift will benefit democratic opinion and the voice of communities when it comes to influencing land use proposals that will affect them.

Media coverage

East Anglian Daily Times monthly opinion piece:

Pylons: clarity and transparency needed to get best solution for Suffolk (18 May 2022)

– opportunities for making a greener, better system which delivers the best possible scheme for Suffolk.


The SPS Summer garden party and AGM

This will take place on 10 June at Gothic Farmhouse, Heveningham.  

Please come along – all Members welcome.

Details and how to book for the AGM and other SPS events are available here.

Look out for our two July events – an online webinar on Net Zero in new buildings; and a walk and talk at Tendring Parkdetails will be available on our events page.