Norfolk Vanguard

The views expressed in this page do not represent those of the Planning Inspectorate. This page consists of content submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by the public and other interested parties, giving their views of this proposal.

Norfolk Vanguard

Received 16 September 2018
From Mrs Susan Allen

Representation

As part of the group, N2RS, my representation covers the main concerns of the group but also my concerns in my role as a long standing local resident and holiday rental agent for properties in the area and regular leisure user of the beaches and countryside that will be affected.

When N2RS was established in April 2017 the main focus was on the choice of technology: HVAC technology would have required cable relay stations, replacing productive agricultural land and leaving a permanent, invasive industrial sites near the coast in rural North-East Norfolk. HVDC technology would negate the need for cable relay stations, significantly reduce the cable width and reduce the impact for the majority of people along the whole cable route, including the access point at Happisburgh.

N2RS worked tirelessly throughout the formal and informal consultations to raise awareness amongst the local community and encourage constructive engagement to ensure the project was fully debated by elected representatives the media and other interested parties. In doing this the members of N2RS recognised the need for renewable energy but felt it must be achieved with due regard and respect for the environment, homes, businesses and wildlife. N2RS therefore called upon Vattenfall to adopt best practice at a corporate level, by committing to an HVDC transmission system – as the least environmentally damaging choice of technology for this and future UK projects. Vattenfall’s unequivocal commitment to HVDC has therefore been welcomed by N2RS.

As the Planning Inspectorate scrutinises the results of Vattenfall’s formal consultation, the strength of support for HVDC should become apparent and any deviation from this preferred system (pre or post consent) would undermine the planning process and would be totally unacceptable to the communities and stakeholders who have supported the HVDC route.

The advantages of an HVDC are reiterated below:

• No cable relay stations will be required in unspoilt countryside near the coast
• The cable corridor width will be reduced substantially from 100 m to 45 m
• The local landscape and countryside, which is key to the area’s character and its popularity with tourists, will be protected from permanent industrialisation.
• Local wildlife (which includes many protected species) will no longer be threatened by loss of habitat due to cable relay stations.
• Construction traffic, which would have impacted on nearby quiet lanes posing a real threat to tourism and to the quality of life of locals, will be reduced from eight years to two.
• High-grade farmland will no longer be lost to cable relay station sites and disruption to farm operations will be reduced.
• Ancient bridleways such as Munn’s Loke – the home of diverse wildlife and a much-valued local amenity – will not be lost or compromised.
• Tourism businesses – holiday cottages, seaside parks, cafes and restaurants – will not be at major risk due to long term uncertainty, loss of reputation and loss of business or closure.

Landfall at Happisburgh

N2RS welcomes the commitment by Vattenfall to Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) at Happisburgh and its guarantee that the beach will not be needed for access.

However, Happisburgh is facing major challenges due to rapid cliff erosion. Homes have been lost and others will be under threat if erosion accelerates at this current pace. The village coastline is a very important archaeological area with significant finds including 'The Happisburgh Handaxe' and the Happisburgh footprints, both evidence of early Paleolithic activity here. Over time this threat will be extended to inland villages and even the Norfolk Broads; an immensely valuable (economically and environmentally) and unique area. An opportunity to make landfall at an existing site at Bacton (which we believe may now be deliverable with the HVDC option) has been lost.

This was partly due to restraints set by the Marine Conservation Zone – but given that the MCZ has already been breached by gas pipes and that the seabed will presumably recover (as we are led to believe is the case with the land) N2RS is disappointed that the Bacton option was so quickly dismissed and this should be a line of enquiry during the inspection process.

Additional points

Although welcoming the HVDC decision and acknowledging the significant extent to which it reduces impact, the project will still affect some individuals and communities, especially where the cable corridor runs close to homes and businesses, where traffic is disruptive and where it connects to the Grid. Therefore,

a) Due regard should be given to homes and businesses which are still directly affected by the wider plans - and loss in property value and quality of life should be taken into account. It should not fall upon individuals to bear the brunt of schemes like this and those affected must be properly compensated. This would include owners of holiday businesses who will lose trade during construction and suffer longer-term loss of reputation for the area.
b) The intrusion into the countryside should be kept to an absolute minimum and the developers should continue to liaise with local people to utilise their knowledge and experience so that homes, the quality of life of individuals, businesses and wildlife do not suffer unnecessarily.
c) Vattenfall should continue to communicate with those who have expressed an interest in this project directly to inform them of major milestones and any aspect that will affect nearby communities – such as road closures and improvements.
d) Once construction starts, local people should have an effective means of contacting the developer or project team especially in emergencies where for example there is evidence of harm to wildlife, flooding, other unexpected events or incorrect procedures being followed by sub contract workers.
e) Vattenfall’s project team should recognise the importance of tourism and ensure wherever possible that works will not impact on the area during peak tourism periods. The impact on tourism businesses during construction and loss of reputation should be compensated. Tourism brings a very substantial income to this otherwise rural and relatively poor area.

Finally, the rights of local people to enjoy their surroundings out of peak hours should also be respected.