This Note gives an update on what is planned for Aldeburgh and this neighbourhood. We think it’s important that members of the AYC have a useful Fact Sheet to help make informed decisions about their own views and if they wish to take action.
The successful growth of offshore windfarms in the North Sea has resulted in the need to land electrical power on the British coast to enable connection to the electricity grid. Additionally, the desire to trade electrical power with the Continent to achieve cost-of-living and energy security goals has resulted in the need to connect additional inter-connectors. Both factors have resulted in consideration of suitable landing points on the coast with feasible, economic connection to the grid.
Currently, a number of projects are being proposed to land in the “ Sizewell generation” area where there is an existing 400KV overhead pylon route. Due to the construction of Sizewell C and other factors, the substation complex is proposed to be at Friston, a medieval village some 5 km inland, but on the pylon route.
Projects mooted for connection include:
- Windfarms including EA1N, EA2, Five Estuaries and North Falls
- Inter-connectors including Nautilus and LionLink which consist of 26 m high buildings and will each take up approximately 12 acres, in total equivalent to over 70 football pitches across the Friston and Saxmundham Energy Zones as a minimum
- Network reinforcement ( Sea Link)
In addition to the substation complex at Friston (consisting of three substations, one for National Grid and one each for ScottishPower EA1N and EA2), current proposals include three converter stations outside Saxmundham for the HVDC cable sets from Nautilus, LionLink and Sea Link. There would also be Landfall planned for North Warren Bird Sanctuary (between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness) for at least two sets of those underground cables leading to the converter stations and on to the substation complex.
When the first of these projects was proposed in 2018, the primary consideration for infrastructure planning was economic cost. Environmental factors were considered, but the focus was on whether these could be successfully mitigated.
The policy climate has now changed significantly.
The Holistic Network Design (HND) of 2022, and the subsequent Winser Report (2023) took as its terms of reference the following four planning objectives:
1. Economic and efficiency costs
2. Deliverability and operability
3. Environmental impact
4. Local communities impact ( including disruption and socio-economic eg tourism impact)
It was clearly stated that all four objectives were to be given equal consideration
The material change is the identification of Local Communities Impact as a specific consideration
Despite the pressures caused by the Energy Crisis, and by the Government’s understandable desire to minimise the cost-of-living impact, these four objectives remain in place and have been codified in the revised National Policy Statements, as enacted by the Energy Act 2023.
There has been strong and growing local community resistance to these proposals. Electrical infrastructure planning can be a dry and technical topic for many, but as local community awareness has increased, there has been growing concern as evidenced by widespread support for several community campaign groups, in particular SASES and SEAS. The community group SEAS was established in July 2019 in order to promote alternative offshore solutions, inspired by successful case studies in Belgium and Holland.
Two judicial reviews driven by SASES and SEAS are still outstanding, one may go to Supreme Court and the other is being heard in Court of Appeal on 13/14 February 2024.
IMPACT ON COMMUNITIES
The assessment of SASES and SEAS is that the proposed National Grid substation complex at Friston on the Suffolk Heritage Coast would result in:
- Offshore windfarm and inter-connector landfall and cabling across National Landscapes (formerly AONB) and SSSI
- Likely additional substations and inter-connectors in the future as the Hub becomes a magnet
- Potential for further industrialisation including hydrogen plants, battery storage, synthetic fuel production and related activities
This would have considerable negative impact on the area:
- Significant environmental risk and long-term damage to rare ecology
- Reversing two decades of visitor-driven growth of the tourism sector which is the mainstay of the Suffolk Heritage coastal area
- Permanent loss of amenity: a blighted landscape and loss of paths and walking trails - Profound change to the deeply rural character of this area and loss of cultural identity and way of life
Cumulative impacts would arise as this building activity is in the same period as Sizewell C construction
Over 60 million visitor days were recorded in East Suffolk in 2022. Most of these are day visits which are heavily affected by ease of access by road to destinations such as Minsmere RSPB, Aldeburgh and Thorpeness. The loss of business has been estimated at 600 million sterling over the 12 year construction period. This represents both loss of revenues and livelihoods. (Source Destination Marketing Organisation 2019 and confirmed by Andy Woods, CEO Adnams).
A number of alternative approaches have been explored and proposed. Broadly, these follow two principles. First, take the power via offshore cables closer to the point of demand, pooling energy at offshore platforms on the way. Second, land the power at brownfield sites (preindustrialised) closer to demand, which in this case is primarily, London and the South East.
SEAS has examined these brownfield sites and there are a number of options. There is scope at Tilbury, Grain, Bradwell and more closer to London.
SEAS has submitted a comparative analysis of Friston versus Bradwell examining the benefits of Bradwell using the four HND criteria.
From a cost saving perspective, offshore solutions would deliver a saving of at least 2 billion sterling for East Anglia. (Source National Grid 2020). The onshore substations are redundant and the cable trenches going far inland.
In the mid-term these approaches are cheaper.
If you would like further information please go to the following websites: