Revolt public statement, July 2002 This statement of about 1400 words is issued to back up the shorter (300 word) statement more widely published. Fuller details of the issues appear on www.revolt.co.uk and the links there.
Consent was granted by Energy Minister John Wakeham on November 5th, 1990, for the Enron gas-fired power station (Europe's largest, 1845 MW) on Teesside. There was no public inquiry and the local authorities to be affected by the power line implications were not consulted. John Wakeham was later made a director of Enron and was implicated in its global scandal in 2001.
National Grid's application for the UK's largest powerline development in modern times followed in 1991. The Lackenby - Picton - Shipton 400kV line was to run 50 miles from Teesside to York. The initial case for the line was based on the need to transmit power from the Enron power station, yet the power station came on full stream on April 1st, 1993, and has operated since then on the existing grid without impediment. Even at winter peak, the existing 400 kV line from Teesside to York is loaded only to about 20% of its 5560 MW capacity, according to NG's own 7-year statements.
All the affected local authorities formally objected to the powerline proposals, along with MPs, MEPs and some 8,000 people. Public inquiries were held in 1992 and 1995, and wayleave hearings from 1994 to 2001. NG bolstered its case by agreeing increased imports of Scottish power, from 850 to 1600 MW and then to 2200 MW, and agreeing to further large power stations on Teesside (Neptune, 1316 MW and Flotilla, 779 MW), though these never even reached the formal planning stage.
Objectors showed that NG departed from the literal meaning of its licence standards, and interpreted data, in order to make its case for the new line. Formal complaints were made to the regulator OFFER. People expressed a lack of confidence in DTI inspectors in charge of hearings who said their role was to get the line through and who were the subject of serious complaints. It was no surprise when Secretary of State Margaret Beckett granted consent to the line in March 1998, nor when the catalogue of errors continued thereafter with a judicial review to quash the rejection of a section at Middleton and wayleave hearings having to be reopened. Objectors had called the proceedings a sham and a shambles.
The case for the new lines was made by misleading the public inquiries, both on technical details and on financial appraisal, for example on constraint costs and on cost-benefit analysis of options. Margaret Beckett's 1998 consent letter accepted the criticism in part, but still relied on the (misled) DTI inspectors' report. But even that report accepted that the large double-circuit line was not necessary, and a smaller single-circuit line would meet all foreseeable needs. The closure of the Blyth power stations (1082 MW) in 2001 further reduces the needs, so that all the grid security standards south of Picton are now met with the present grid. Grid stability issues remain but do not require new powerlines to solve them.
The level of refusal by landowners and occupiers to agree voluntary wayleaves was unprecedented. Despite offering hard-pressed farmers typically £10,000 per pylon, NG were forced to seek compulsory powers in 93 cases. That alone should have signalled to government that something was seriously wrong with the proposal.
Revolt opposes excessive, unnecessary and intrusive powerlines. In particular we:
* oppose the new 35-mile 400kV double-circuit line from Picton to Shipton in North Yorkshire, which is not needed for public electricity supply but is NG's commercial choice;
* do not oppose the new 15-mile 400kV double-circuit line from Lackenby to Picton in Cleveland, which causes the removal of a smaller 20-mile 275 kV line through residential areas in Teesside;
* call for removing the existing 400 kV double-circuit line from Norton to Picton, via west Yarm through residential areas, which abandoning the Picton - Shipton line would enable.
Note that, in the consented plans, the two new lines are separate and will not connect at Picton. Instead they will be joined to different parts of the existing 400 kV line, which will be cut but not removed.
The 1998 consent made a condition on granting the Lackenby - Picton line that the existing 275 kV line from Lackenby to Norton via Marton, Crathorne and Eaglescliffe must be removed. Revolt welcomes this and does not object in principle to the new Lackenby - Picton line, though we say the new line should be moved further from houses at Eston and Nunthorpe.
Technically the new Picton - Shipton line can be abandoned, leaving the new Lackenby - Picton line to be teed in to the existing 400 kV line at Picton. A further benefit would then be that the existing 400 kV line from Norton to Picton, via west Yarm, could be dismantled.
What is Revolt doing now?
Revolt continues to act as watchdog and whistle-blower to keep NG and its contractors in check, over road accesses, wayleave powers and construction works. Our latest legal advice is that, where they have compulsory wayleaves, NG do not need landowners' agreement to enter land, but NG are bound by a reasonableness limitation. Landowners may legally refuse entry, but only on grounds of unreasonableness.
Revolt is also pursuing legal avenues on human rights and on constitutional rights. Advice so far suggests there may be grounds for a human rights case, but there is no current action to halt construction..
Revolt continues to provide a balanced assessment of the developing research on health issues, exposing the shortcomings of NG and NRPB, and to advise DTI and DOH officials.
What have objectors achieved?
1. Delaying the pylons for almost ten years.
2. Saving the country huge amounts of money and energy over those ten years. The line will promote energy waste of 500 million pounds per year, from surplus generation in the north to meet demand in the south.
3. Undergrounding a key section of 5.7 km at Nunthorpe and Newby.
4. Diversion to avoid a Site of Special Scientific Interest at East Moor.
5. A formal requirement to remove the existing 275 kV line through Teesside.
6. Getting the DTI to accept, in 2002 for the first time, that it must now prepare for potential precautionary policies on the question of health effects of powerlines.
Can anything else be done?
Clearly, pylons are going up. NG has used heavy-handed tactics to suppress objecting landowners. By threatening an injunction, with possible costs of millions of pounds including delay to the project, one resisting landowner has been pressed to sign draconian undertakings.
Formal proceedings have been exhausted, the last in June 2002 when the Rountons Gates wayleaves were decided. Legal processes on human and constitutional rights remain, though there is no current action scheduled to intervene in the construction of the pylons.
March 2003 will be five years after the consent for the lines. At that point Secretary of State is empowered, by a formal condition to the consent, to review the consent and order the removal of any of the lines. The more the (Picton-Shipton) line is shown to be unnecessary, and the more people object to it, the better the case for its removal.
Electricity generation and transmission are changing rapidly. Local small-scale combined heat-and-power systems will soon be cheaper and readily available for homes and businesses. While a core grid will still be useful, excessive grid will be redundant.
The body of evidence of links between power lines and ill-health, particularly cancer, is clear enough to warrant a precautionary policy. NG and its directors, shareholders and sub-contractors are putting people's health needlessly at risk. Revolt will actively campaign in future on behalf of the NG cancer victims citing this warning.
Display car stickers and posters, available from Revolt Secretary Robert Adamson xxxx xxxxx.
Get on revolt's email news bcc circulation list
Telephone Peter Johnson xxxx xxxxxx to be on stand-by for demonstration or support to landowners.
Write to Energy Minister Brian Wilson MP to ask for the Picton - Shipton line
to be removed after March 2003, in view of changing energy policy, increasing
health concerns, NG's bullying and public opinion.
Copy to your own MP. Both are at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
Ask him then also to remove the 400kV Norton - Picton line through west Yarm, in addition to the removal of the 275 kV line in east Yarm.
Keep in touch with www.revolt.co.uk and its links.