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Revolt Newsletter 113

12/02/2002


Revolt News 113  Text version

URGENT - access matters may come to a head tomorrow morning - see items 11 and 12 below.

1. The Downing Street advisory group PIU (Performance and Innovation Unit) is to review energy policy. A leaked version was reported in summary in the Independent 23.1.02. In short it backs investment in wind and other renewables but keeps open the option of more nuclear power. It warns that the UK will soon become more dependent on imported gas and oil. It is not clear from the Independent whether PIU has got the message about large remote generation being damaging.

2. With Enron grabbing the scandal headlines, we hardly noticed the demise of Energis, NGC's telecoms baby, which trades on telecoms cables strung on the pylons. It has just lost half its share value, with poor financial reporting cited and the company at risk of breaching loan covenants (Independent 25.1.02). NGC still owns 36 % of Energis and has 2 directors on the Energis board, and is "not entirely innocent in the affair" according to the Independent.

3. Darlington & Stockton Times had an interesting leader 25.1.02 praising the Teesdale energy initiative and suggesting it would reduce the need for pylons. Local generation is good but wind power doesn't help, as my letter sent in response shows (Appendix 1 below). The letter didn't make it in DST 1.2.02 (it did 8.2.02) but a good letter from Elizabeth Mann of CPRE did appear.

4. Monday 28 Jan brought gales and power failures, just as a Revolt delegation met with NGC. As usual the power failures were due to lower voltage distribution lines blowing down, and not to NGC transmission failures. The transmission super-grid is very secure, orders of magnitude more so than the smaller local lines, and it doesn't need major reinforcement. Ironically I was turned back at Brompton on my way to the meeting, as local power lines had blown down across the road. Power was off the same afternoon in South Parade, Northallerton, but that was due to gas workers cutting a cable!

5. The planning inspector's report upholding NG's appeal for the road accesses at Kirby Sigston can be seen at Stonecross. The report was reasoned, and it did consider the "contiguous access", i.e. along the line, which I had put forward, but reckoned the disadvantages outweighed the advantages. The inspector said he could not consider the smaller access which NG suggested, as it differed substantially from the formal application, so the bigger one is granted. There are many conditions attached to the permission, along the lines of those Hambleton has applied to other accesses.

6. Special conditions apply to the 9 areas of Nature Conservation Interest (NCIs) on the Picton - Shipton route. For example work on trees and hedges is restricted to the autumn and winter. For the record the 9 NCIs with pylon numbers are: 1. Winton grasslands 31-33; 2. Sigston Castle 33-36; 3. Crosby Bridge 48-51; 4. Crosby Garden Ings, 51-53; 5. Broadbeck, Borrowby 55-56; 6. Spital Beck 65-66; 7. Sowerby Parks 89-90; 8. Sowerby Parks 93-94; 9. Coldstream Gorse 167-168. The papers at Stonecross include full schedules of trees to be lopped or felled in these NCIs.

7. Northern Echo 11.2.02 reports Innogy is seeking to buy Teesside Power Station. Cllr David Walsh, leader of Redcar & Cleveland BC, is urging DTI to be pro-active in the sale.

8. Stewart Grant for NGC writes that neither of the residents mentioned in news112 (who reported mud and gateway blocking along the Lackenby - Picton line) had been in touch with NGC about it. He thinks it is important that where members of the public raise concerns NGC has the opportunity to look into them and where appropriate take corrective action. Anyone may contact Stewart on the project information line Freephone 0800 833490. So please feel free to use it, and also feel free to inform others via revolt news.

9. Anne McIntosh MP has taken up an incident of NGC's reported unannounced and unlawful entry at Sowerby Caravan Park on Monday 28.1.02. She has written to James Ross, NGG Chairman, and to Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State at DTI. She is also keeping up her rate of parliamentary questions and correspondence on issues relating to the Yorkshire powerline - I just made a summary of 23 items in the last 6 months.

10. The rail bridge dangers which led to the Selby rail disaster a year ago are acute on the very routes of Balfour Beatty construction traffic for the NGC line. My letter to the Northern Echo is Appendix 2 below. Maybe the public should start at the Raskelf-Tholthorpe bridge where a Balfour Beatty truck got stuck in the ice at Christmas. Ideas for danger posters please.

11. The problem of NGC's unauthorised access on to private land is coming to a head. Revolt and the NFU have jointly commissioned a barrister's opinion, expected this month, since to us the position is clear: NGC have compulsory wayleave powers to install the line but they do not include powers to take access across private land as NGC thinks fit, rather they require the landowner's agreement (as spelled out in the parliamentary reply by planning minister Nick Raynsford on 12.5.99).

There is no reference to access in the wayleave document and the only relevant reference in the Electricity Act is to access to maintain an existing line but not for installation. NGC have a flawed letter from DTI which erroneously suggests the access arrangements were discussed at wayleave hearings; the transcripts prove they were not. The police have commissioned a separate opinion which is said to favour NGC, but, until we have seen it and seen how the barrister was briefed, we cannot attach any credibility to it as it flies in the face of the bare facts and the written legislation. In the absence of the landowner's agreement, we expect NGC will be able to get a court order to enforce such access as is reasonably necessary, but we do not accept it is for NGC to decide unilaterally what is reasonable.

12. The matter is coming to a head tomorrow morning Wednesday 13.2.02 at 9.00 a.m. at Station Farm, Alne, as NGC has taken a confrontational approach to this issue and has said it's policy is to go on the land even when the landowner expressly refuses permission. NGC is reported to have faxed the farmers at Station Farm today to say they will enter the land tomorrow morning, even after receiving the land agent's firm letter saying they are not to be allowed to enter. The gate will be locked.

13. It is reported that highways work for the NGC project is using unmarked hired white vans and the workers have been told it is secretive and they are not to talk to farmers. This sort of cloak and dagger approach, coupled with the confrontation, can only exacerbate the tensions, especially when NGC promised at its "consultative" parish meetings that it would be open with identification of vehicles and people and prominently displayed telephone numbers. Promises are one thing, actions something very different.

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APPENDIX 1 letter offered to DST 26.1.02 (appeared 8.2.02):

Sir,

Your leader 25th January supports renewable power initiatives in Teesdale, saying it could mean no need for overhead power lines. Some kinds of renewable power could help reduce the need for power lines, but wind power can only make the problem worse!

Wind power is necessarily intermittent. The wind turbines fail in low and in high wind conditions. They only deliver about a third of their installed capacity. They cannot replace the continuous power supply we all need.

The powerline infrastructure must cater for when wind power is off as well as when it is on. That needs more infrastructure not less!

Unfortunately wind power has serious limitations. Apart from being intermittent, it needs vast installations to generate a significant output. Very large wind turbines typically have capacity 600 kW. There are super-large ones at 1 MW and, developing for off-shore use, even 2 MW. You need three of them to deliver the capacity of one because of weather variability.

It would take over 5,000 super-large wind turbines to equal the Teesside Power Station capacity of 1845 MW, averaged over time, but they could never do it continuously. Even 50 of these huge machines, much bigger than the largest pylons, would severely degrade Teesdale. And they would add to the need for overhead lines in Teesdale and beyond.

There is scope in Teesdale for other renewables, including hydro and biomass, which could make the area self-supporting. More important, there is developing small-scale generation for local use which will be cheaper than power from the grid - the sort of micro-generator for combined heat and power (CHP) now installed in Durham County Hall. Installed locally in farms, hotels and villages, they could indeed make Teesdale self-sufficient while reducing the need for powerlines.

There are competing strategies of scale: small and distributed or huge and industrial.

If the industrial wind lobby gets its way, Teesdale could be blighted by an inescapable and overbearing army of monstrous machines and powerline wirescape. On the other hand the Teesdale renewable energy challenge might just get it right, without wind.

Yours, Mike O'Carroll ------------------------------------------------------------------------ ----------------------

APPENDIX 2 letter to Northern Echo (submitted 8.2.02, appeared 12.2.02)

Your front page article Tuesday 5 February gave clear enough evidence. 42 vehicles ploughed through rail bridge fences, 27 ended up on the tracks, 3 were hit by trains and 1 person was killed, all in less than a year since Selby.

Selby was not a freak event. It is a disaster waiting to happen, again! The analysis is clear. But the authorities, especially Railtrack, suffer paralysis by legalysis. Members of Revolt are concerned at the intense heavy traffic for building National Grid's giant powerline, now permitted over some of these bridges.

With very little money and initiative, striking danger signs might be put in place until repairs are made. Or shall local people do it and shame the authorities?

Mike O'Carroll

 

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