REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 201

Revolt news 21/11/2005

*** NEWSFLASH *** - see item 3 re. Beauly meeting TONIGHT and the premier performance of the New Wombles children's group.

1. The regional planning process marches on. There is good work in promoting renewable energy, and a long way to go if any significant impact is to be made on greenhouse gas emissions. Our culture will need to change along the way, not least in energy conservation and in transport, but the planning process is one place to start. The whole thing may be ineffective if a culture change isn't achieved, but the one dominant aspect of it all will be the forcing through of windfarms throughout the country. That will be the biggest single visual environmental impact over the next ten years, ineffective in reducing greenhouse gases but very effective in political display and in despoiling rural tranquillity. My response to the latest steps in Yorkshire is at APPENDIX A. One new concern is that a formal Memorandum of Agreement is suggested, which looks like a surreptitious way to put another weapon in windfarm lawyers' hands.

2. The problems of the 400 kV National grid line at Sale continue. Dermot Finnigan sends the message at APPENDIX B.

3. What a cracking idea - the Pylon Pressure group at Beauly has come up with a wombles hit song to support their cause. The lines "underground, overground, ..." are just made for it. APPENDIX C gives details and the words for the new verses. They are to be sung by local schoolchildren at a public meeting at the Phipps Hall, Beauly, at 7.30pm tonight, Monday 21 November. Readers may recall the Revolt song "Better Way" - a recording can be downloaded from the Revolt web site. I will try to get one of the wombles song by the schoolchildren.

4. The Shetland Times 18 November 2005 reports that last week energy minister Malcolm Wicks announced that transmission charges would be capped for a further 10 years to October 2024, which will boost massive wind farm development in the Shetlands. Earlier this year the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) announced it would cap transmission charges until 2014 to help energy generators in the Highlands and Islands. That would of course subsidise them by getting around the cost-reflective charges for long-distance transmission. The more cost-reflective charges could have cost as much as 32 per kilowatt for generators in Orkney and 55 per kilowatt from Shetland, while generators in England would pay 8 per kilowatt. Such long term subsidy rather defeats the purpose of cost- reflective controls. (See also news199.7)

5. Under the headline POLITICAL EARTHQUAKE: EUROPE TO ABANDON KYOTO PROTOCOL, The Observer, 20 November 2005, says Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, has told The Observer she is prepared to accept voluntary targets - a move hinted at this autumn by Tony Blair. Stephen Tindale, head of Greenpeace UK said 'Without mandatory targets [the Kyoto Protocol] is effectively dead.'

***** *****

APPENDIX A Response to North Yorkshire Renewable Energy report of October 2005.

By and large it is a helpful step in developing RE policy and action, but I remain concerned about the key issue of visual (and sound) impact of windfarms, coupled with their very limited (and sometimes negative) effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

To put wind power in perspective, one new nuclear power station in the YHA region would achieve much more than all the wind farms combined. I suspect that some opposition to nuclear power may be technically ill- informed and dogmatic, as indeed may be some support for wind farms.

Paragraph 33 of the Introduction to the Recommended Planning Guidance recommends a Sustainable Energy Planning Working Group be established.

Can you tell me if such a Group has been established and if so what is its composition and what opportunities might there be for people to make contributions to it?

The same paragraph 33 goes on to say the aim of the Group should be to secure ... a Memorandum of Agreement to ensure a consistent approach across the County. I am particularly concerned about that level of formality and the extent to which it might be legally binding on the parties to it. I hope that officers' advice to members would include some caution about undertaking legally binding commitments unnecessarily. This could be used by developers' lawyers as a device to strengthen their hand in over-riding local authorities; the example of barristers in the recent appeal against Harrogate DC illustrates how they can use the RSS and any other devices to powerful effect.

It would in my view be imprudent for local authorities to commit unnecessarily to such constraints which could be used against them. Instead, a non-binding declaration, expressly without prejudice, might be made to have regard to such guidance.

A similar approach might be taken to regional targets. The targets themselves have never been well publicised for consultation and have not been technically justified. At the NYRE study workshop I asked for the evidence and justification behind the targets, and the REF spokesperson promised to make them available. There has been no further information but the matter is said to have been referred back to a working group. From all I have heard, these targets are very crude and not evidence- based. The concentration of wind farm capacity on North Yorkshire and especially on Hambleton is contentious and unfounded. Yet by slipping into a memorandum of Agreement the Councils could find themselves legally bound to those targets while questions raised about them remain unanswered.

I would be grateful if you would bring these concerns to the attention of the Council and its relevant committees.

***** *****

APPENDIX B Message from Dermot Finnigan.

I have received 58 pages of safety information so far from NGT relating to their 400,000volt line they built on my boundary. An extraordinary thing to happen for a line that NGT claims does not impact on my life or property. This safety information should be sent by NGT to every property and land owner (private, public and commercial) that is in close proximity to high voltage power lines. They sent out their safety expert Mr Bryant to explain the information to me. This service should be also available to anyone that lives within close proximity of power lines.

NGT asked me for a risk assessment for a family gathering on bonfire night, again quite extraordinary. Can you please alert all your members that NGT supported by the DTI engineering inspectorate require risk assessments and I quote "that it is entirely reasonable to expect private landowners to undertake his own risk assessment for any activity on his own land. In the case of private activities, this can be carried out informally, and would not necessarily need to be written down. However, in the case of public or commercial activities, we would expect this process to be formalised."

There is no difference to the risk which is described in NGTs safety information as "death, shock, or burns" whether it is private, public or commercial.

Your members must also be made aware there is no insurance cover in place for the areas described as the "safety limits of approach".

I have written to the Prime Minister asking him to ensure that NGT and the DTI make the public aware of their safety information by either a mail shot or a national advertising campaign in the press and on the television. Health and Safety is the paramount concern of any organisation and they have a duty to ensure that anyone within close proximity of power lines is not ignorant of the dangers and is educated and assessed to be competent in the practise of preparing risk assessment.

I am at loss to understand why an organisation like NGT should build a new line without checking with me the line and location of my boundary then spent the next 18 months denying it has had any impact on my life and property to then reluctantly release 58 pages of safety information that is centred around the dangers of death, shock and burns appertaining to their 400,000 volts on my boundary. Can someone out there please explain?

***** *****

APPENDIX C Wombles hit - from Press & Journal 19.11.05


Highland campaigners calling for a new power line to be buried underground, rather than carried by massive new electricity pylons, have adopted the Wombles song as their signature tune.

The 1970s hit song, with its "underground, overground" chorus, will feature as protesters try to gather fresh support over concerns about the proposed 137-mile Beauly- Denny upgrade.

And the song, along with some extra verses, is to be given its premier by local school children at the Phipps Hall, Beauly, at 7.30pm on Monday.

The 25 Teanessie School pupils will be the headline act at a rally to raise support for the campaign to underground the local stretch of the power line.

The childrens' school lies close to the Beauly electricity station, which will double in size when the line is upgraded.

The new verses include the names of local villages and a plea to power company Scottish and Southern Energy to put the line underground, a call SSE has resisted, saying laying the line underground would cost at least 3.6billion, compared with 300million to go overland.

The new verses for the song were dreamed up by Fiona Hill, mother of five-year-old twins Angus and Annie, from Glass, Aberdeenshire, who is helping the Pylon Pressure campaign.

The new verses are:

Underground, overground where shall we be? Kiltarlity, Kirkhill, Kilmorack, Beauly, I think we'll stay underground and won't Womble free, Because of pylons and electricity,

Maybe if underground we'd womble free, Enjoying the country and it's scenery, Underground, overground where shall we be? Oh why won't SSE listen to me?

***** *****

-- Mike O'Carroll




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