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Revolt Newsletter 67

20/12/2000

1. Although revolt policy is not to challenge the Lackenby-Picton line in principle, there are unsatisfactory local aspects. Joseph Jackson of Nunthorpe has the underground cables set to go under his drive, which Middlesbrough Council owns but which he occupies with right of way. Further it is an appurtenance to his house and therefore part of his dwelling. NGC would therefore need his wayleave agreement, but in any case are prohibited from putting cables under part of his dwelling by Schedule 4 of the Electricity Act 1989. Further Joseph has identified a gap in the collective Environmental Impact Assessments, which omitted 1.3 km of underground cable route nearby. Revolt is pursuing these and other matters with its London solicitors.

2. DTI has replied to our solicitor's letter challenging the decision of Sec of State to approve a flawed tree replacement scheme. rather a dismissive reply! There are two parts to the criticism, that the original condition was flawed and unimplementable, and that the approved scheme was inferior to the alternative which would offer landowners compensation for land given up. The first part was dismissed as a long- standing condition much used previously. The second part was dismissed by claiming it was not obvious that the alternative would achieve the objectives. (The condition required the replacement of all trees felled, whereas the scheme depends on landowners giving up land without compensation.) The point we made was that the although neither scheme would guarantee replacement, the alternative with-compensation scheme would have a better chance. We are considering next steps.

3. Planning Condition 11 to the Picton-Shipton line consent reads: "Work in connection with the development shall be undertaken in dry weather conditions and when the soil is in a dry state". The reason given is to minimise the risk of damage to the soil. We now have the background and definitions. NGC has sought clarification from DTI, who in turn refer to what the local authorities agreed in 1992 (paper NYLA24), which in turn refers to a definition in a DTI letter of 14.2.92 given for the Norton- Saltholm line as a precedent. That definition was specifically of "when the soil is in a dry state" and not of "dry weather conditions". It states: (1) Construction equipment shall not traverse soil which is in a fluid state (as identified by the Soil Survey Field Handbook) or when there is standing water on the ground surface. (2) Movement of construction equipment shall stop immediately if rutting in excess of 250mm (ie approx 10 inches) starts occurring as measured from the original ground surface level. Movement of equipment may only recommence when equipment can be moved without causing rutting in excess of 250mm. NGC sought DTI guidance received as recently as 18 Oct 2000 on the definition of "fluid state". The Field Handbook page 60 gives the definition; briefly it is that a handful of soil when squeezed tends to flow into the spaces between the fingers, even if after exerting full pressure most of the soil remains in the hand (ie "slightly fluid"). So, going back weakens the Condition 11 from its actual wording, introducing reference to construction traffic only, as distinct from all "work in connection", and introducing the 10 inch rut rule. We have to ask what is the legal force of that background, when the publicly declared Condition was stronger. On the other part of the Condition, "dry weather conditions", Hambleton DC takes the view this means there must be no precipitation (rain or snow, but not mist or fog). Putting it all together, the Condition (even by DTI's interpretation) should require work to stop if ANY ONE (or more) of the following applies: (a) there is any standing water on the ground surface; (b) a squeezed handful of soil tends to flow between the fingers; (c) ruts of 10 inches occur; (d) it is raining, snowing or drizzling. Landowners and protesters may find (b) the simplest and most effective test, especially where the soil is clay. In any event, NGC require the agreement of landowners to enter their land, and if landowners have doubts or unresolved issues, they should be entitled to refuse entry.

4. NGC has written 13 Dec to give the required formal notice to the NYCC County Archaeologist of the intention to start work on the line. The letter states "...construction of this overhead line is imminent. National Grid intends to commence excavations for the construction of the line itself in mid-late January and construction activities will continue throughout the year." That is without apparent regard to many landowners not having agreed access, or to the dry weather condition. I will try to find time to compose a final letter, over Christmas if necessary, to the Chairman of National Grid to appeal to him to defer or abandon the Picton-Shipton line, given the closure of Blyth from 31 Jan, the changes in distributed generation, the wet weather, new health evidence, and the unresolved issues and access problems. -- Mike O'Carroll

-- Mike O'Carroll

 

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