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Revolt Newsletter 93

19/07/2001


1. The Kirby Knowle FMD outbreaks have spread to other nearby villages east of Thirsk. For pictures of the MAFF (DEFRA) culling team occupying verges at Knayton see http://www.thirsk.org.uk/fandm1.html  People are wondering if NGC contractors will similarly fill the verges with vehicles. NYCC are now heavily occupied with FMD matters so are well informed about latest developments. For more see also http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/footnmouth/footnmouth.asp 

2. NGC has produced 12.7.01 its revised Schedule 9 Statement on preserving amenity. That is the one for which shareholders at last year's AGM, led by Ian Cunniffe and Peter Johnson, sought review. The Environment Council convened a consultative workshop which Ian and Peter attended. The new Statement is better than the old one, though still leaves much to be desired. The Picton - Shipton line would never have been proposed if NGC had followed guidelines in this new Statement. My response of 14.7.01 is appended in plain text below. Will NGC now apply the new standard and abandon the line?

3. DTI tell us that NGC's proposed Norway interconnector, to land at Hartlepool, is receiving some support for feasibility studies from the EU Trans-European Networks budget.

4. North Yorkshire's response to the international environmental framework Local Agenda 21 (LA21) is available in a booklet dated March 2001. Incidentally it gives a useful overview of the Council's activities, as they are all come under the green microscope. The Council's overall objective is "to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives in, works in or visits North Yorkshire". I have recommended, among other things, that landscape quality be included with the performance indicators. This year the NYCC Structure Plan is to be updated and rolled forward to 2016; the old one was of 1995 vintage and covered the period to 2006. The Structure Plan includes policies to protect and enhance the quality of the natural environment and landscape.

5. NGG's AGM was held in Birmingham 17 July. There was no resolution tabled of interest to Revolt, though the Schedule 9 Statement (see above) may have been mentioned. Revolt members did not attend. The NGG Annual Report shows a dynamic expansion of international business, especially in the eastern US (the serious power crisis is largely in the west), though the English national grid remains the cash-cow majority earner. UK transmission operating profit was 486M pounds last year, down slightly on previous years and the excessive 600M levels pre-flotation. UK turnover remains steady around 1300M. Winter peak demand (England & Wales) reached a record 51 GW on 16.1.01. Ofgem's new price control of NGC started in April, and the new electricity trading arrangements (NETA) started in March (replacing the "pool"). NGG see a stable regime ahead for continued profit and streamlining. NGG made some gains in "corporate environmental engagement" - let's hope it becomes real and not just cosmetic, and that they might actually listen to us! The blurb says ethical, social and environmental responsibility is good business - if only they could convince themselves!

6. Philip Davis, shadow energy minister in Victoria, Australia, visited Revolt members and Hambleton and NY councils 17.7.01, to compare notes on the c. 4,280 MW Yorkshire and 600 MW Basslink projects (both National Grid). He had met NG the previous week.

APPENDIX: letter to NGC re Schedule 9 statement:

Eamon Collins <schedule9@uk.ngrid.comma> Planning and Environment Manager National Grid

Dear Eamon Collins,

Response to Schedule 9 Statement

Thank you for your letter of 12 July together with the final statement.

The points I made in my letter of 20 May fall into three classes: * those which you have incorporated, for which many thanks - for example the layout, heading and introduction to the Background page; * those not incorporated but with an explanation which I accept - for example dealing with electromagnetic fields elsewhere than under amenity; * those which remain of concern to me.

The remaining concerns include the omissions of "promoting reduced demand" and "promoting relevant research and development" as set out in my letter of 20 May (points 1 and 2). The company could reflect these points in terms for new generators according to location, in charging new generators (and interconnector business) for deep reinforcement, in improved overhead line conductors to increase capacity on existing lines, and in developing and using more cost-effective underground alternatives.

Point 11 in my letter of 20 May mentioned financial compensation and affected residents other than grantors. It is disappointing that this continues to be an omission, given that visual quality (which affects property value) is included in the definition of amenity. It would have been better if the Statement made clear that visual quality covers property value, as requested in my point 14.

The Commitment 1 on establishing need is very important, and suggests a very different position to that which the company took over the Yorkshire line. There the alternative of upgrading Stella-Harker was an admitted possibility, and the technical need was only established (and only by departing from the literal meaning of the security standards) for a single-circuit line in any case.

Would the company now, in the spirit of the new Statement, consider downgrading the consented Picton - Shipton line to a single circuit? Or, post-Blyth, abandon it? (We do not object in principle to Lackenby - Picton given the condition of removal of the 275 kV line.)

So much will depend on whether the company will comply minimally with the Statement or take a more full-hearted approach and aim to exceed it. Experience leads me to fear the former. For example, in Commitment 2 you will "seek to avoid ..."; that is easily escaped if you are not willing to make all reasonable efforts and incur some reasonable extra costs in order to avoid those impacts.

I would be grateful if you are able to obtain an answer to my question: has NGC ever opted for underground in a rural area other than when required to do so by refusal of s37 consent?

Commitment 9, while welcome, still has the appearance of the sort of spun PR exercise which we have found so distasteful in Yorkshire. I rather doubt that the company culture is ready to embrace (or even understand) the more positive approach mentioned in point 12 of my letter of 20 May. What a pity, it could benefit the company significantly.

You did not respond to my point 13, that five years is much too long for review of the Statement. Will the company at least report on performance against this Statement, with details and not just a short assurance of compliance? Will such performance be audited, through internal audit or environmental audit?

Yours sincerely,

-- Mike O'Carroll

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