Minutes of 2000 AGM | Chairman's Report | This page as rich text file
R E V O L T
Annual General Meeting
Friday 23 November 2001 at 7.30 p.m. in Thirsk Town Hall
1. Apologies and messages of support.
2. Minutes of 2000 AGM (as report circulated 6.10.00 and herewith):
approval and any matters arising.
3. Treasurer’s Report.
4. Chairman’s Report (herewith).
5. Appointment of Auditor:
proposed continue with Sue Vicary & Co, Certified Accountants.
6. Election of Committee (note the Committee will elect officers at its next meeting):
the Secretary will read names of nominees.
7. Open Forum:
- new developments on the health issue;
- access over private land;
- removing three existing lines (see chairman’s report);
- the future role of Revolt (see chairman’s report);
- comments and questions on other issues.
Thursday 5 October 2000 at Thirsk Town Hall
1. Apologies and messages of support. About 170 people attended. Messages of support were reported from MEP/MPs and others who couldn't attend. Special guests Peter Edmonds (Northallerton NFU), Superintendent DavidShort (NY Police), Greg Stone (Lib Dem PPC) and Vic Pulleyn (Countryside Alliance chairman) were welcomed.
2. Minutes of 1999 AGM (previously circulated): the Minutes were agreed with no matters arising.
3. Treasurer’s Report. The report was received.
4. Chairman’s Report (previously circulated). The report was received.
5. Appointment of Auditor: agreed to continue with Sue Vicary & Co, Certified Accountants.
6. Election of Committee (note the Committee will elect officers at its next meeting): there being no other nominations, the Committee were re-elected.
7. Open Forum:
7.1 The outline strategy was discussed at length, and approved with additional points.
7.2 The health issue had a new significance in the light of entirely new epidemiological evidence from Dr Alan Preece at Bristol supporting the physics research of Professor Dennis Henshaw on the way powerlines cause contaminated airborne particles to intensify and attach to people. Peter Edmonds, who said from the farmers' perspective the NGC were like the Gestapo, brought us up to date in the light of the recent Radio 4 Costing the Earth programme to which he contributed centrally. Evidence suggested powerlines could be responsible for 3000 premature deaths per year. He called for a national moratorium on new powerlines in the light of this developing evidence. Corporate liability, and directors' pesonal liability, were highlighted as points to press upon the NGG Board through shareholder lobbying. Greg Stone offered to use his contact with the National Association of Pension Funds to raise awareness of the issue among corporate investors.
7.3 A 4-page green sheet of Guidance for Protesters was issued and discussed. It emphasises our strong legal basis for physical protest by turning up and standing in NGC's way. We will work with the advice and support of our London solicitors Leigh Day & Co and in regular consultation with the police. David Short outlined the positive approach of the police, which, while impartial, will facilitate lawful protest. He said he saw no serious objection to our Guidance.
7.4 Landowners are in a very strong position, as confirmed by the Parliamentary statement copied in the green Guidance sheet. The wayleave does not allow NGC to go on their land without their express permission. Reasons for refusing access included: soil not in a dry state, compensation not satisfactorily agreed, concern of potential health risk, inconvenience for the landowner (eg access route or working area or times), need to disinfect vehicles before entry. Refusing access because of concern about the new health evidence could provide a useful test case, with the onus on NGC to make its case.
More issues involved Revolt over the year than I can report here. Some 50 email news bulletins were sent out - ask to go on the bcc circulation list. The bulletins, and other features, can be seen on our 120-page web-site http://www.revolt.co.uk which gets about 150 page-views per day with hits from over 50 countries.
The proposed Yorkshire line was held back much of this year, and the Revolt AGM postponed, because of foot and mouth disease. Now it is resuming. The Lackenby-Picton section, to which Revolt does not object in principle, has the underground cable section almost finished and a couple of pylons up nearby. The longer Picton-Shipton section, to which we do object, still has to secure one wayleave and several accesses, but construction work has been permitted and is expected to start soon on non-agricultural sites near Tholthorpe and Sowerby. Most of the work is expected to be done next spring and summer.
Planning permission has been granted for most of the accesses from highways. Appeals against planning refusals in the Kirby Sigston area are with the Planning Inspectorate. Wayleave hearings for the Rounton Gates area are to be held by DTI in Northallerton on 29 November. A formal condition prohibits work on the line except in dry weather and when the soil is dry, though there are slippery definitions of what that means and National Grid (NGC) will try to get round it.
Most importantly, NGC need landowners’ agreement to access over private land, even if there is a compulsory wayleave. NGC contest the point, and have coaxed a supporting but mistaken letter out of DTI, but the wording of the Electricity Act and the Parliamentary Reply from Planning Minister Nick Raynsford and NY police all confirm our position. Landowners are entitled to refuse entry as long as NGC has not agreed all arrangements to the landowner’s and occupier’s satisfaction; in the absence of agreement, NGC may seek a court order (when the landowner and occupier should be able to put their case) for such access as is reasonably necessary.
The point came to a head in February when NGC personnel entered land at Winton over a locked gate and against the express refusal of the landowner, and refused to leave after being requested by the land agent and questioned by the police. The matter is in the hands of the NFU solicitors.
So where does this all leave Revolt? Our role has been more cerebral than physical - putting evidence to hearings and inquiries; taking legal advice and actions; collecting and reporting information; political lobbying. We have facilitated events and advised on legal protesting. While the main focus has been the Yorkshire line, we have also lobbied on wider national policies.
A need for these roles continues, not least as whistle-blower to keep National Grid and its contractors in check and to support landowners and others affected directly. As national policy and technology continue to move our way, as we said they would, there is still a strong argument for NGC to abandon the Picton-Shipton line. Even if it should be built, there will be a growing case for removing it after its 5-year review.
Electricity generation is changing dramatically. The closure of both Blyth power stations in Northumberland and the demise of the mooted Neptune, Flotilla and AES Tyneside have removed any non-compliance with security standards south of Picton, even by NGC’s data. Only stability non-compliance might remain, and it is best solved by simpler means than a new line. Yes, other proposals are mooted, including an interconnector from Norway to Hartlepool and windfarms on- and off-shore at Teesside and elsewhere - these are several years off and not yet even applied for or approved, so they may be offset against the closure of Hartlepool nuclear power station or even TPL. Meanwhile, micro-generators have arrived; MiniGen CHP units are being installed in Durham County Hall.
This is the way of the future - small distributed CHP units (even at household level) instead of large remote power stations - cheaper than the Grid and greatly reducing the need for power lines. Gradually government policy is recognising this, and the influential Institute for Public Policy Research promotes the trend in a key report this year. Transmission technology continues to advance, with developments in gas-insulated cables and in super-conducting cables, promoting cheaper underground options and reducing overhead lines.
The case for abandoning the Picton-Shipton line is strong. The 275 kV Lackenby-Crathorne-Norton line, which runs close to so many houses in Teesside, would still be removed under the formal Condition on the new (400kV) Lackenby-Picton line. Revolt welcomes that, and does not oppose the new Lackenby-Picton line, which in any case is to be connected at Picton to the existing 400 kV line from Picton to Thornton (near York). Abandoning the Picton-Shipton line would also enable the removal of the existing 400 kV line from Norton through west Yarm (over houses) to Picton, and the spur from Thornton to Shipton near York. Voters in Stockton South and York should join Revolt’s cause and get all of those lines removed, not just the 275kV one.
Earlier this year, colleagues Ian Cunniffe and Peter Johnson took part in a seminar organised by the Environment Council to review NGC’s Schedule 9 Statement (a legally required statement on NGC’s duty of preservation of amenity), following their shareholder’s protest at NGG’s AGM last year. They were able to win some improvements, though NGC remain defensive. More lately, government is looking to reform planning processes, especially to speed up decision making for privatised utilities. I suspect they have us in mind! Revolt has been consulted in the research.
The health issue continues to gain momentum. Peter Edmonds (Northallerton NFU) has collected data on farming families near powerlines and has appeared on several radio and TV programmes. World pooled studies last year confirmed the association of exposure above 0.4 microTesla (common near powerlines) with childhood leukaemia. The UK government advisory body NRPB produced its 180-page Doll Report in March and was criticised by Revolt and Powerwatch for its spin and omissions. Protests led to NRPB belatedly agreeing to address precaution and to examine the evidence on illnesses other than cancer. Meanwhile, more countries and the WHO have taken a precautionary approach to fields from powerlines. A report from the California Dept of Health classified a range of illnesses as "more than 50% possible".
It has been a busy year - all the above, key changes in electricity regulation, and kindred issues from around the world. It seems Revolt still has much to consider and to aim for, even if and when the Yorkshire line might be constructed. My grateful thanks go to our committee and to all our many volunteers.
Mike O’Carroll, Chairman