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REVOLT Powerline Concerns Health Hazards Need UK Energy Policy

 Re-opened Wayleave Hearing of
Mr and Mrs D A Wilkinson
24 November 1998


Re-opened Wayleave Hearing of Mr and Mrs D A Wilkinson, 24 November 1998

Proof of Evidence of M J O’Carroll

1. Résumé of M J O’Carroll MA MSc PhD CMath FIMA FRSA

I am a chartered mathematician with research, publications and consultancy mainly in numerical analysis and computational mechanics but embracing other fields including formal logic, applied statistics, energy and epidemiology. I am Chairman of Rural England Versus Overhead Line Transmission (REVOLT), which opposes the major Yorkshire grid development and promotes a co-ordinated UK energy distribution policy. I have given evidence at public inquiries on environmental and health aspects of power lines.

2. Scope of this evidence

2.1 This evidence concerns procedural and generic issues which impact upon the Wilkinsons, especially upon their quality of life and enjoyment of their land. My aims is to update and not to repeat evidence heard at the previous inquiries and hearings. The evidence in chief is brief. Appendices are used for new detailed material.

3. Procedural position

3.1 This Hearing first opened in 1995 when consent for the line over the Wilkinsons’ land had not been given. Indeed, the Secretary of State’s provisional response in 1994 held back a decision on Section 37 consent until wayleaves had been sought. The several hearings in 1994 and 1995 were then held without consent having been granted, and updating generic issues were considered as part of the wayleave hearings in 1994 and as part of the parcel of inquiries and hearings in 1995.

3.2 Owing to an administrative error, this Hearing was not reported to Secretary of State along with the others held in 1994/95, and the wayleave was therefore not determined. Following an invitation by DTI to the Wilkinsons the Hearing is now reopened.

3.3 This placed the reopened Hearing in a different position since Section 37 consent had now been given for the line across the Wilkinsons’ land. In a letter of 22.7.98 from Reg Peachey, DTI dismissed the Wilkinsons’ view that the Hearing was now prejudiced. He maintained that Section 37 consent did not imply that a wayleave must be granted over the Wilkinsons’ land. However, the Hearing is in a worse position than it was originally. Is the inspector empowered to recommend revocation of Section 37 consent over this land?

3.4 The Wilkinsons were led by the DTI invitation to apply for a re-opening of the Hearing. The manner of the offer obscured from them the possibility of other alternatives. For example, should the Wilkinsons be entitled to a new hearing? If so, they may wish to consider this even at this stage.

3.5 The Wilkinsons felt that their position was prejudiced by other factors apart from the consent decision, and in particular by the appointment of an inspector who had made previous pronouncements about the wayleave sought. The dismissal of their concerns by DTI through the letter from Reg Peachy seems itself to be contrary to the principles of natural justice, since it is DTI absolving itself. Mere assertion does not remove prejudice.

3.6 The DTI letter of 22.7.98 says that Secretary of State does not accept that generic issues relating to the line as a whole should be re-examined at this re-opened Hearing. However it is acknowledged that the Hearing would consider the impact on the use and enjoyment of the land were the wayleave to be granted. A considerable part of that impact is the psychological and emotional impact of the line due to the feeling that the consent decision was unsound and unfair and that the procedures for both consent and the wayleave were also unfair. In order to explain that impact it is necessary at least to outline the factors behind that feeling, including updating generic issues from 1995.

3.7 There is a precedent in a DTI decision of 12.5.98 to refuse a wayleave between Thorp Arch and Easedike, reference AAH/2/3(N). The inspector concluded that "there has been insufficiently convincing evidence from NGC on the forecast growth in demand to demonstrate that it is necessary or expedient to proceed with the proposal now. I am not persuaded that NGC have considered adequately all the comparison issues …". Thus need was a material factor in rejecting a wayleave. Given the speculative nature of need for the present proposal, and not only the implausibility of future growth in demand but its conflict with express government policy, equity would require the same treatment.

4. Update on generic issues

4.1 It has often been said that people would tolerate a line which was seen to be necessary to bring the benefits of electricity to others. The claimed need for this line is something very different. The question of need for this line has been vexed. In the decision letter of 26.3.98, SoS concludes in 5.5 that the technical case for need has been established. It is however based on a claimed security requirement "in the light of … Teesside Power Ltd, exports from Scotland and expected future growth in generation" while accepting that "a single circuit line would be sufficient for immediately foreseeable needs" (5.2). The excessive and speculative nature of the decision will weigh heavily with the Wilkinsons, were the wayleave to be granted.

4.2 The security requirement at the core of the claimed need was challenged by many objectors, and NGC admitted it had departed from the literal meaning of the relevant standards. To the Wilkinsons this appears to be like cheating. The question of meeting the requirements in the absence of the proposed line, for example by continued derogation, was raised but not examined sufficiently. New evidence is now available in the letter of 1.10.96 from OFFER (Appendix 1) which suggests the possibility of continued derogation. It will be important to the Wilkinsons that such a possibility, at least for the three-year duration of the moratorium on gas-fired power stations, is not ignored.

4.3 The consent decision is also based on financial misinformation to the inquiries resulting in unsound economic appraisal. This very serious and material issue seems to have been treated with contempt by DTI. It transpires from OFFER’s 1996 Transmission Price Control Review firstly that the proposed line would cause an increase in operating costs, not a decrease as the inquiries were led to accept, and secondly that the proposal was not the "most economic option" as claimed in 5.3 of the decision letter. Full details are given in Appendix 2 which was submitted to Secretary of State in 1996, and was said to have been taken into account in her decision in 1998. Her consideration is flawed. She acknowledges in 8.2 that the new information "may reduce the economic benefit of the Development", a grudging understatement of its effect of reversing the true assessment of options, but goes on in 8.3 to accept "on the evidence the Company presented to Inquiry 2 that the three options utilising the Stella-Harker line would still remain by far the most expensive options". She therefore relies on the flawed evidence which the Company gave while accepting that the new information could change the assessments. Without the increased Scottish imports, which are contractually dependent on the new Yorkshire line, the Stella-Harker options will be cheaper.

4.4 It follows further from Appendices 1 and 2 that, consequent to the increased Scottish imports contractually dependent on the proposed line, the line would result in increased constraint costs and increased grid developments elsewhere on the system, in other words at new bottlenecks elsewhere throughout England. These consequences have never been taken into account or costed in any of the proceedings so far. They should properly be identified in the assessment of the project; this has not been done.

4.5 The "tortuous route" argument perpetuated in 5.2 of the decision letter of 26.3.98 reinforces the view that neither the inspectors nor the SoS have understood the point: the security requirement covering the event of a double-circuit outage means that any such route is simply a safety valve which based on past records would hardly ever be used, and if ever used would be only for about one minute in five years. The argument that such a route is uneconomic is plainly absurd, yet it has been incompetently perpetuated since the original inquiries in 1992.

4.6 More recently the pattern of generation has materially changed, in that for example

(a) the proposed Neptune power station is no longer transmission-contracted;

(b) government policy has increased CHP targets to 10 GW which will radically increase locally generated power and reduce the need for bulk long-distance transmission, and a government report has suggested that targets of 15GW may be economically viable;

(c) more cost-reflective regulation from 1997 will also reduce the need for transmission;

(d) government policy on fuel sources and the moratorium on gas-fired power stations will further reduce the need for this line.

Appendix 3 gives some background. Even if the decision were regarded as sound in March 1998, the changing industrial pattern and government policy is moving strongly to reduce the case for the line. NGC cannot be expected to reflect this change sympathetically in its proposals, since the line would be, in effect, a free asset paid for by consumers, with the added bonus of facilitating lucrative short term contracts for intrinsically wasteful connection of power stations remote from net demand.

4.7 Given that opposition to the line principally challenges the need, the Wilkinsons feel there has not been adequate consideration of alternatives other than those put forward by NGC, in particular of single-circuit alternatives, possibly using the proven French system of poles on the centre reservation of dual carriageways such as the Parkway and A19.

4.8 Lack of confidence in both DTI for the proceedings and NGC for its information weighs heavily in the impact the Wilkinsons would suffer were a wayleave to be granted. First, the DTI proceedings: suggestions of "complicity" and comments of "sham and shambles" were argued in my closing submission of 23.11.94 to the second set of wayleave hearings conducted by Mr Walker. These were not noted in his report, although he reported some of the factors under "The case for the objectors", e.g. in 4.5 and 4.8. Appendix 2 gives reasons for lack of confidence in the 1992 proceedings (sec.1), the 1994 wayleave hearings (sec.2), the 1995 inquiries (sec.3) and the unreliability of NGC’s evidence (secs. 5 and 9). Enclosures 2 and 3 were REV 210 dealing with wayleave misinformation and REV 301.21 with inducements in detail. Other enclosures dealt with NGC’s financial misinformation. Other factors are the hastily fragmented hearings, last minute increases in inducements not to appear, late re-serving of most wayleave requests, changes in tower heights, and errors of fact and of identity of grantors. Inspectors are appointed who are said to be independent yet appear to be appointed and paid by the government. Hambleton DC formally objected to Mr Walker’s appointment in 1995 claiming the inspector should be unconnected with the previous proceedings. Their objection was rejected by DTI. The Bruntons’ first wayleave hearing was abortive due to a mistake by NGC about gas pipes, so they had to go to the expense of a second hearing for an adjusted line position, at extra expense for which NGC resisted compensation. An oversail of Mr Osborne’s land at Crosby has been omitted and only brought to light this summer, when NGC has made a new request for the wayleave. Now DTI has blundered over the Wilkinsons. The sham and shambles continues.

4.9 Appendix 4 summarises why the Wilkinsons disagree with Secretary of State’s decision.

4.10 The impact on the Wilkinsons is exacerbated by reports of incidents of NGC flouting proper procedures and taking an aggressive approach to entry on to land (Appendix 5).

5. Conclusion

5.1 The Wilkinsons feel that their wayleave hearing is prejudiced by an unsound consent decision in a context of change which continues to reduce the case for the line. A catalogue of reasons underlies their lack of confidence in the proceedings and in the consent decision. To grant a wayleave against their wishes would have severe impact on their quality of life, as the all too evident presence of the line would be an unrelenting reminder of the strong sense of injustice which they rightly feel. You are asked to recommend not only the rejection of the wayleave, reflecting the cited precedent and other factors, but also the revocation of consent over their land.

M J O’Carroll 23.11.98

Appendices

1. Correspondence with OFFER, 11.9.96 and 1.10.96

2. New developments to October 1996, with enclosures, 22.10.96

3. New developments to November 1997, without enclosures: letter to SoS 17.11.97

4. Why do we still disagree with Secretary of State? September 1998

5. Letter to Peter Bedford with enclosures, 20.11.98.

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