Campaigning to rid our landscape of the threat of more pylons

Welcome to the website that aims to keep you informed about our campaign to oppose National Grid’s proposals to place yet more pylons in our lovely landscape. 

Hailing from the East of England, we reject National Grid’s proposals to patch up the tired old 20th century grid and demand a 21st century solution that rids the landscape of the blight of electricity pylons. Here on this website we can show you just how this could be achieved…

PYLONS: puzzled by what all the fuss is about? The Suffolk / Essex border hosts the beautiful countryside that inspired some of the world’s most celebrated landscape painters, most notably Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable. In 2009, electricity transmission system operator, National Grid proposed to despoil the natural beauty of these internationally significant heritage assets with yet more pylons. 

Worth protecting from the threat of more pylons? 

These are truly the painter’s landscapes that inspired some of the world’s greatest works of art. Currently the area threatened by the pylon proposals is under consideration to be added to the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or AONB.

Is it truly outstandingly beautiful and what did it inspire? 

What are SVU doing now?  National Grid may have put their pylons project on hold but our work goes on. Currently we are working to ensure that both National Grid’s proposals and the local authority’s positions on them are fully compliant with the government’s National Planning Policy Framework. Currently they are not. This simple article explains what we are doing, why it’s important and why we are doing it now

Most recent major development: On

Thursday 14th November 2018 National Grid announced that they are shelving the Bramford to Twinstead Connection Project due to changes and delays to the connection dates for new generators around East Anglia. They now say that instead of needing the connection around 2019, they will not not need it until the early 2020‘s. This suggests that the project has been put back around 5 years. Accordingly, the proposal for a new substation in north Essex has also been shelved so we can all breathe a sigh of relief. But this is not victory: this is a stay of execution.

The time between now and any future resumption of the project will provide us with time to make an even stronger case for more environmentally acceptable solutions that avoid blighting valuable landscapes with overhead lines and new mobile phone masts.

This coincides with our work  to rejected an application by Nohasslemobilephones.com to erect a 30ft mobile phone mast in a residential area. We campaigned because of the serious harm it could cause to those living nearby. The landmark move is expected to have major implications for hundreds of similar cases nationwide.

Community groups and safety campaigners have repeatedly expressed fears about the masts – which send and receive mobile phone signals -because of the possible radiation dangers. There is a link between microwave radiation from masts and conditions ranging from cancer to blood clots in the brain.

This also makes valuable time available to work toward the proposed extension of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to include our local landscapes. Succeeding with this would bring protections and benefits that would not only help us defend our countryside from unsightly industrialisation, but also potentially make funding available to remove some existing eyesores.

SVU offer their heartfelt thanks to all who have supported us over the last few years. 

The work we have done is far from wasted and SVU will be ready if we need to regroup to fight another day. In the mean while, if you want to help keep new pylons out of our countryside, support the extension of the AONB in any way you can: it’s the best way to secure the natural beauty of our area for us and for future generations.

SOLAR FARMS: Stour Valley Underground firmly support the deployment of Solar PV in appropriate locations such as on brown field sites and on rooftops. In keeping with government policy, appropriate locations do not include best and most versatile agricultural land or high value and heritage landscapes. SVU has already contested one inappropriately located solar farm proposal. Based on that experience and to support others who seek to protect such countryside, we here provide a toolkit of the relevant ministerial guidance documents along with pointers to applicable planning policy.

Quick links to four years of campaign content…

National Grid’s Substation Location Decision 

On the 28th August 2013 and after much delay, National Grid announced that despite the comprehensive opposition of local communities and local government at all levels, they persist in wanting to build a new electricity substation at the A131 site NG representatives said they would back in 2011, before the consultation. The consultation has changed absolutely nothing. SVU have published an initial response which is available . National Grid’s press release is available , its letter to residents  and their response to the consultation.

 Also published the same day was a document from UK Power Networks that confirms our argument that some substation option costings presented to the public were grossly exaggerated and misleading. In one case UKPN had included over £40million for work that is already part of their business plan irrespective of NG’s current project. Read UKPN’s document hereUPDATE: On 30th August, National Grid revised their consultation feedback report in light of complaints from both Essex County and Braintree District councils. Find the revised version.

Spring 2013 found us fighting a proposal from National Grid to build a new substation at the gateway to the culturally significant landscapes of the Suffolk / Essex border.

On April 8th 2013, National Grid’s Substation Consultation closed. SVU’s response is an evidence based document that again presses for the solution that has full local government support: upgrade Braintree substation and connect it to the distribution grid via underground cables, then remove all redundant pylons. We also show that this has been a consultation to a predetermined outcomebeset significant flaws including wildly inflated costs for options the grid companies don’t want. This is not opinion – we present hard facts

SVU’s preferred Braintree reinforcement solution instead of a new substation receives strong support from county councils. Read Essex’s responses


On 11th February 2013, National Grid (NG) announced their wish to build a new substation in north Essex. Stour Valley Underground have already proposed economically sensible, environmentally preferable alternatives that avoid this. Our response to NG’s press release is available . Building on our success in having underground cabling and better cable routing adopted by NG, we continue to press for better solutions. 

In mid 2012 National Grid published their response to our underground cable proposals. They have agreed with our proposals to route underground cables to a more southerly point but that’s about it. Intransigence suffuses the rest of their response and their reasoning is deeply flawed as we will proceed to demonstrate. Our press release on this is available.

Willing to pay? There is a key question we need to answer in our quest for more environmentally preferable electricity transmission solutions: are the people of Britain willing to pay the additional costs involved involved in putting the power lines out of sight? Recent research for National Grid shows the answer to be a resounding YES. This non technical article gives a  glimpse of the implications of this research and provides access to the research report.
A Step ForwardNational Grid have announced that they propose to put their new connection UNDERGROUND through the Stour Valley and the Dedham Vale AONB. This means that somewhat more than 1/4 of the route will be undergrounded. For many that is far from the decision they sought and the fight goes on for a more environmentally acceptable solution. SVU see this decision as a platform on which to build and outline the campaign to come.
Underground Cabling Decision: National Grid announced their underground cabling decisions and released their Connection Options Report in support of them on 29th May 2012. Having taken way more than 2 years to develop their ideas, NG gave us 2 months to respond to this bulky and complex document. People and organisations across the area have risen to the challenge and have collectively provided a comprehensive and compelling case for undergrounding the whole route. Stour Valley Underground’s full response to National Grid is available.

RESPONSES: National Grid gave local authorities, councils, residents and amenity groups just 8 weeks to respond to their Connection Options Report which contains the reasoning and evidence that underpins their limited underground connection proposals. These bodies carefully examined NG’s report and have responded to it in depth. Together they deliver a detailed and damning inditement of the failure of National Grid to gather sufficiently comprehensive data to support their decisions. 
Substation developments UK Power Networks have released their document proposing and making the case for a new substation to be built in the Twinstead / Castle Heddingham area. Having not properly considered the environmentally preferable and economic underground cable option we put to them, they opt for the fast and dirty solution of blighting the beautiful north Essex countryside with a 50 metre tall eyesore. As ever, SVU will come forward with better solutions that preserve our high value landscape.
UK Power Networks Substation DocumentsThe publication of UK Power Networks need case and proposal document was originally notified to councillors and community forum members by National Grid who provided links to UKPN’s website. Rather unhelpfully, UKPN have changed their website and the documents have been moved . To enable you to reliably access the main document, we have installed a copy permanently in our webspace and it is available .

Stour Valley Underground distributed its initial outline response to National Grid’s undergrounding proposals on 12th June 2012. The online version is available here and covers our proposals for underground cable routing, areas to be undergrounded, cable end locations, substation and redundant pylon issues. We also list the significant benefitsto be derived from our proposals to landscape and wildlifeareas. We finish with an image that sums up the whole issue. 

An Underground Cable Alternative to a Substation. National Grid propose to build a vast ugly substation in the countryside of north Essex. We believe that an environmentally and economically preferable alternative solution is available: an underground cable to supply the power. We explore this proposition and show that it can bring huge benefits at little additional cost.

Preserving A Threatened Masterpiece. Stour Valley Underground entered 2012 working to ensure the preservation of a uniquely intact view once painted by Thomas Gainsborough. His painting Wooded Landscape with Herdsman Seated hangs in the Gainsborough’s House Museum in Sudbury. Now you can stand on the very spot that inspired this work of art. We tell you how to find it and just why we must stop National Grid despoiling this culturally significant landscape with pylons.

Visualising a Substation; National Grid are currently proposing to build a substation in the north Essex countryside between west of Castle Heddingham and Twinstead and will shortly be holding project consultation events across the affected area. We visit Eaton Socon Substation to help us visualise what might be built locally and  present a gallery of images to help you judge for yourself .

Thinking the unthinkable – a third line of pylons might be needed by 2021! National Grid’s figures clearly show that by this date even the upgraded grid they propose could run out of capacity and just one new gas fired powerstation or large windfarm proposal in the region will precipitate another overhead line proposal from National Grid. Gas Insulated underground power Lines (GIL) in a tunnel could save our landscape from this. 
Light relief: When Secretary of State, Chris Huhne headed up the Pylon Design Competition we saw it as a rather pointless diversionary trick. The winning “T” pylon design would cost more and would require 5 “T” pylons to replace 3 of the current ones. Bringing no aesthetic benefits, if used they could raise the cost of overhead lines to match that of underground lines!  Maybe Chris Huhne was having a laugh, so we have responded in kind.
Our landscape has inspired some of our Nation’s cultural treasures but National Grid want to blight this iconic countryside with ugly infrastructure. In our Summer – Autumn Newsletter we look at better ways, and at doublespeak from National Grid. We also show that the urgency that precipitated National Grid’s proposals is dissipating but that current law might still lead to the unnecessary blighting of our valuable landscape through pointless haste.

Time to write to your MP! Stour Valley Underground’s third annual public meeting heard numerous calls for letters to go from all concerned constituents to their MP, calling for them to support Tessa Munt MP’s Private Members Bill that will enable underground power lines to become the preferable electricity transmission technology in valuable landscapes
It was standing room only at Stour Valley Underground’s third annual public meeting at Wickham St Paul Village Hall, Essex. With impassioned addresses by Local Government at all levels and with support from local MP, Brooks Newmark and all of the area’s campaign groups, this meeting heard presentations from SVU that provided local communities with much relevant information that National Grid have never put before them.
Local Issues. National Grid are currently holding project information events across the consultation area. Past experience tell us that they won’t be telling you the whole story and we are sure you’ll want to ensure that you’re not mislead. If you’re going to one of these events and want to know more about our local issues than National Grid will be telling you, why not read our preparatory notes. They are not too long or technical and are available.

July 2011: National Grid’s Corridor decision is as predicted and we list 10 things wrong with it. Returning to issues that directly effect the communities that begat SVU, we lament the fact that National Grid’s plans fail to minimise pylon blighting and that redundant pylons will NOT as promised, be removed from our landscape. The removal of these pylons was pitched to Twinstead residents as a benefit of a corridor 2 decision.
June 2011: Decision time! This newsletter predicts the pylon corridor decision National Grid will announce next month and its implications. We look at the pylon threat to the Waveney Valley and also at the final draft of the Government’s energy policy and ask, did we make a difference? Lastly, our main article looks at the Europe wide Supergrid and explains why it is key to our energy and economic future while at the same time freeing us from the threat of a plague of pylons.

May 2011 Newsletter. If grid reinforcement is indeed needed between Bramford and Twinstead then we advocate putting it underground. National Grid have said that this would cost £600-900 million. In our latest newsletter we reveal that the water industry can complete a similar scale project in the same landscape for £25 million. Our latest newsletter looks at this project and asks why it supposedly costs the electricity industry so much more?

April 2011 Newsletter: Following on from our most recent meeting with National Grid, we ask: do their proposals really address the grid security issue? We argue that the answer is NO and show why the real solution is still to put the transmission lines underground. We also put forward a proposition for a full scale trial of the underground transmission technology we advocate.
Supergrid to the rescue?... Could the Supergrid rid our landscape of the threat of yet more pylons? Can we create an energy future that does not despoil the environment with the very technology we are employing to save it? We show the answer can be YES but it’s all down to timing. Click here for our March Newsletter which looks at the effect the timing of such developments has on whether or not we end up with more pylons.

2011 sees more support for the undersea grid…

Suffolk County Council (SCC) organise the National Symposium on Future Energy Networks in London and come out strongly for a sub-sea grid for the windfarms. We contribute to the 2nd consultation on the Government’s National Policy Statements (NPS). Read the news on all this here, our NPS response  or about the Symposium on SCC’s website  or Groton Pylon Alliances erudite view . SCC have now released the proceedings of the day which we are glad to provide a link for. SCC have also released a 6 point list of conclusions drawn from the symposium which are also presented .

Seeing the bigger picture: we present evidence of a region wide threat to our environment from the energy industry. We have been presenting this broader view of the pylons issue to the County Councils of the Eastern Region. 

Big questions answered:– How much do underground cables really cost? How should the windfarms be connected to the grid? Is underground cabling affordable? Can you put a price on the environmental impact of a pylon? 

Undergrounding the power lines is for many of us a logical way to remove the blight of pylons in the countryside. Here we look at an underground cabling strategy designed to meet the needs of most of the inhabitants of the consultation area.

What’s wrong with National Grid’s pylons consultation? Rather a lot and we in SVU have linked up with activists from the Colne-Stour Countryside Association, the Dedham Vale Society and Bury not Blight to present a fulsome and comprehensive rejection of the validity of the consultation process that should have made it possible for you to develop informed opinions about the best way to reinforce the electricity grid. Read our joint submission to IPC .

An undersea grid? Read our exciting proposals for a power distribution strategy that is based on building a ring main around the coast of Britain. It is a strategy that works for all of us and provides a road map to a pylon free UK by 2040.