1. NGC has given 7 day notices to some landowners, following the 28 day notice last month, of work by Balfour Beatty. It seems that this is first aimed at walking surveys (again) and tree tagging. There is a suggestion in some places of a soil survey, and we wonder if they intend again to use the heavy tracked vehicle in the present weather conditions. All work in connection with the project is subject to the condition of "dry weather conditions and when the soil is in a dry state". NGC has taken the approach that it will tell landowners after the event what compensation if any they will get. Some landowners feel that, given the weather and the fact that they haven't agreed to arrangements, and especially given the closeness of Christmas, this is not the time to start work on their land. Even for surveys, landowners may reasonably require contractors to report to them, and may wish to oversee what the contractors are doing on the land, so it is unacceptable for Balfour Beatty simply to turn up after a 7 day notice. It makes sense for landowners to demand that the entry be postponed until the new year.
2. A number of landowners have contacted NGC to reject the 28 and 7 day notices. Some have written directly to NGC Chairman James Ross, but have received replies only from project manager David Mercer. Balfour Beatty have appeared at some places, though have not shown personal identity or public contact telephone numbers (as NGC had promised they would) and their compounds are anonymous. Although NGC say it is a different branch of Balfour Beatty plc, it is the same plc as received serious public criticism for their "low standards and poor attitude" in connection with their responsibility for faulty rails causing the Hatfield train crash. What a nasty outfit!
3. There is also a question of interference with river banks and drainage, especially in the critical conditions in the Vale of York. The River Kyle Drainage Board is said to have particular concerns about vehicles approaching near river banks where the grid line is planned to run alongside or to cross the river. Landowners might wish to explore the state of becks and drainage on their land and to require NGC to consult the relevant authority and report to the landowner.
4. "Planning laws left in chaos by ruling" - Times headline 14.12.00. Two judges ruled that John Prescott was not entitled to decide planning appeals. They said he was "judge in his own cause" as he was responsible for the planning system, and to decide appeals would be incompatible with the Human Rights Act. I am writing to the Times to ask how much more so should this apply to the Sec of State of T&I determining power line consents, as he is responsible for the system and there isn't even any appeal system.
5. Fuel cell technology is at last coming to prominence with financial viability looming. Important articles appeared in New Scientist 18 Nov (pages 16-17) and 25 Nov (editorial). The editorial says "within a couple of years, fuel cells will provide heat and electricity for homes and offices". That soon! They will run off mains gas. The editorial goes on "power companies will use them as an alternative to extending the electricity grid". An American expert says (18 Nov p.16) "within 5 years I'll be able to go down to Wal-Mart and pick a microgenerator off the shelf to power my house ... and it will be much cheaper than using the power grid". If the authorities can't accept that NGC's line is not needed now, even after the closure of Blyth power station, it is hard to deny that it will become redundant in 5 years, and we can campaign for its removal from 2003.
6. NGC has started its road access planning applications in the Stockton Borough Council area. The Council issued notices 28 Nov and 1 Dec of applications for temporary access roads around Hilton, Seamer and Middleton on Leven (scene of the famous "gap"). Plans may be inspected at the Council offices. Objections should be made in writing within 21 days (almost now) quoting reference numbers 00/1900/P, 00/1901/P or 00/1902/P to the Council at PO Box 34, Municipal Buildings, Church Rd, Stockton on Tees TS18 1LE. There is also a fax number 01642 393092. Applications at Hambleton have been held up for over a year with many objections and refusals on grounds of local environmental damage, excessive hedge removal, safety, etc. It will be up to people locally. REVOLT at its AGM adopted a policy of not opposing in principle the Lackenby - Picton line given that the removal of the 275kV line is now a formal condition, and given the difference the closure of Blyth makes to Picton-Shipton.
-- Mike O'Carroll