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Burning Pylon logoWayleave hearing 16.10.01
re. NGC line at Rounton Gates
(Hearing postponed until November)

Wayleave hearing 16.10.01 re. NGC line at Rounton Gates 
Proof of Evidence of M J O'Carroll 2.10.01 (and addendum 13.10.01)

1. Résumé of M J O'Carroll MA MSc PhD CMath FIMA FRSA

1.1 I hold the MA degree of Cambridge University in mathematics with physics, an MSc in mathematical existence theory and a PhD in computational fluid dynamics.

1.2 I am a chartered mathematician and a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. My research, publications and consultancy have been mainly in numerical analysis and computational mechanics but have embraced other fields including formal logic, power engineering, applied statistics, energy and epidemiology. I have given evidence at public inquiries on need, environmental and health aspects of power lines.

1.3 I am Emeritus Professor at the University of Sunderland, following my retirement as Pro Vice-Chancellor. I am a member of the Northern Epidemiology Group. I am Chairman of Rural England Versus Overhead Line Transmission, which opposes the Picton-Shipton grid line and promotes a co-ordinated UK energy distribution policy.

2. Scope of this evidence

2.1 This evidence very briefly addresses two things, need for the proposed line and health considerations. It is not intended to go over settled ground, but to address changes.

2.2 It is recognised that NGC has consent for the line under section 37 of the Electricity Act, in the course of which the Secretary of State accepted NGC's arguments on need for the line. Nevertheless the position continues to change. My evidence reflects concerns related to the weakening case for the proposed line, and the strengthening case for alternatives, as they bear on the grantors. The relevance to these hearings is that it may be open to the Inspector to recommend deferring the wayleave decision pending review of aspects of need, so that the question of a single-circuit line, with lesser impact, or of no new line south of Picton, may be reconsidered.

2.3 It is recognised that Secretary of State, relying on advice from the NRPB, has dismissed health concerns in granting consent for the line. Nevertheless evidence continues to grow, and important international reviews have recently appeared. Mr Edmonds is expected to provide a summary with documents of recent evidence. A full scientific inquiry would not be appropriate in these hearings. My evidence is to provide a brief overview reflecting the site-specific concerns of the grantors.

3. Change in need for the Picton - Shipton line

3.1 The line which is the subject of these hearings is the proposed Picton - Shipton line. The need for it is a separate consideration from that for the whole Lackenby - Picton - Shipton line. It is possible for the Lackenby - Picton line to be teed in at Picton to the existing 400 kV line. It would in any case join up with this line at Picton, running on to the south, in NGC's proposals.

3.2 The case for the Picton - Shipton line is based on security and stability. The existing grid has ample capacity. The essential security requirement is that, in the event of outage of both circuits of the existing 400 kV line, surplus power from the north east region can be transmitted south. This is only likely to happen once in seven years and then for less than a minute, without loss of power to consumers. Present arrangements for tripping at TPL power station provide adequate safeguards.

3.3 The key change which has happened since consent was given is the closure of both Blyth A and B power stations in Northumberland. Appendix 1 sets out the consequences. The security requirement is now satisfied, as was anticipated in the 1992 inquiries. However, stability requirements remain, although they would normally be solved by simpler measures than a long new 400 kV line.

3.4 While previously mooted major generation developments, Neptune and Flotilla, which would have added to the considerable surplus north of Picton, have been abandoned or deferred, other developments have been suggested: Eston (Conoco) and an interconnector from Norway. Flotilla remains transmission-contracted. These developments are speculative and not yet the subject of formal application. Like Neptune, which was also transmission-contracted, they may be abandoned.

3.5 There is a strong sense of grievance at the consent decision, which was based on acceptance of a flawed case for need. Appendix 2, which was not available at the time of the 1992 or 1995 inquiries and was not provided to Secretary of State before the 1998 consent decision, identifies anomalies in NGC's claims and concludes that all of the problems may be cured without the need for any new transmission lines. That was even before the closure of Blyth.

3.6 While accepting need for some new line, the Inspectors at the 1992 inquiries also accepted that only a single-circuit line was needed, and that the choice between that and the double-circuit line was finely balanced. The closure of Blyth should tip that balance. It would be practical, while installing a new double-circuit line from Lackenby to join the existing line at Picton, with the benefit of removing the existing 275 kV Crathorne line, to reduce the new Picton - Shipton line to a single circuit. This would have the benefit of greatly reducing its impact in the wayleave areas under discussion.

3.7 Appendix 3 summarises the position on need as at March 2000, and anticipates the closure of Blyth. The possibility of abandoning the Picton - Shipton line, even though it has consent, remains rational, and the alternative possibility of reducing it to a single circuit would be consistent with the conclusions of the 1992 Inspectors, since closing Blyth tips the fine balance they observe.

4. Health considerations

4.1 Mr Edmonds will present evidence on the health issue of residential exposure to powerlines. While the demanding (and artificial) threshold for proof of a cause of ill effects has not been established to the satisfaction of most official agencies, important international authorities have designated residential exposure to powerline EMFs a possible human carcinogen. There is a firm statistical association with exposure above 0.4 (T, when the risk of childhood leukaemia is doubled. There is suggestive evidence of other ill effects. The grantors are therefore justified in their rational concerns.

4.2 Both of the affected farms and the cottages at Rounton Gates are all within slightly over 100 metres of the line as proposed in each of the three alternatives. The farms are to the east in the direction of the prevailing wind, and well within the 400 metres distance where ionised particle effects have been found. The direct exposure to EMFs would be significant at all of the properties, and potentially within 0.4(T for much of the time, as the evidence presented by Mr Edmonds will show.

4.3 The NRPB has been criticised, both for its EMF report earlier this year and for its failings in the related issue of mobile phones. The independent Stewart report was particularly critical of NRPB. One of its failings, admitted by Sir Richard Doll, is in failing to address precautionary policy on EMFs, as it also failed on mobile phones.

4.4 It is not easy to see that health considerations favour any of the three routes proposed against the others. The genuine concerns nevertheless add to the case for deferring a decision pending a review of need for the line, or for a double-circuit line, and pending further research on health matters as called for by NRPB.

5. Conclusion

5.1 There are genuine and rational concerns, both about need for the line as proposed and about potential health effects on the grantors and other residents, based on the changing and new evidence not properly taken into account in the earlier consent or wayleave decisions.

5.2 The Inspector is respectfully asked to consider making recommendations for further review of the need for the line south of Picton before a decision is made on the wayleaves requested. This is with a view to proceeding with the Lackenby - Picton line and removing the Crathorne line, and either abandoning the Picton - Shipton line or reducing it to a single circuit.

M J O'Carroll 2.10.01


1. Transmission implications of closure of Blyth A and B power stations, 10.7.99, plus addendum.

2. Power flows in north east England, 22.5.95.

3. The need (or not) for National Grid's second 400 kV Yorkshire line, 13.3.00.

addendum 13.10.01

Mike O'Carroll


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