Hundreds pack pylon forum meeting

MORE than 200 people packed a public meeting in Nailsea to air their views on National Grid’s latest plans for a new power line in North Somerset.

Held on Saturday, the forum was organised by the Nailsea Against Pylons action group following the energy giant’s announcement of where it plans to install the 400,000 volt line featuring huge pylons.

Chaired by North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox, it was organised to continue the pressure on National Grid to put the whole line underground, and to allow residents to ask questions about the project.

Alternative options for the line were also put forward by chartered engineer Chris Ambrose, from Wraxall, who believes an underground, gas insulated line would be a better option for National Grid to use.

He said: “We need to protect the countryside now and for future generations.”

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When installing the new line, National Grid has said it will take down both the existing 132kv lines which pass over houses to the west of Nailsea.

One will be replaced by the new 400kv line and the second will be buried underground between Nailsea and Tickenham.

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During Saturday’s meeting at Nailsea Methodist Church, the company’s representatives were asked why National Grid is willing to place the smaller line underground but not the proposed new one.

National Grid major project manager David Mercer said: “The Electricity Act requires us to be economic while having regard to amenity.

“To underground the 132kv line it costs �2million per kilometre.

“To underground the 400kv line it would be �16-18million per kilometre.

“The cable system has to be much larger and it is much more expensive to manufacture and install.”

According to National Grid consents manager Richard Walsh, an underground 132kv line would need a 10m-wide trench while for a 400kv line this would need to be 65m wide.

Dr Fox asked why National Grid has agreed to underground the line at the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but not at Tickenham Ridge, where he thinks it would create a huge eyesore at one of the highest points in the area.

This view was echoed by John Miles, a representative of Cadbury Camp Lane residents, who said: “The cost of undergrounding the 400kv line would be cheap compared to the hassle you will get from us to stop that cable going overhead.”

Again, the National Grid representatives said this was due to cost.

When the proposed route corridor for the line was published in September 2011, this showed the line would head toward a substation to the north of Portishead on its way between Tickenham and Avonmouth, before heading west toward Pill and then crossing the River Avon.

But the new route has cut out the need to connect with the Portishead substation, meaning the proposals could see the line running parallel with the M5 towards Avonmouth, taking it very close to homes in Portbury. This more direct route would mean less pylons having to be installed.

During the meeting, one resident of Sheepway said the cables would be just 80m from his back door if this new route was adopted.

Portbury Parish Council chairman Peter Cooke said: “We had a tremendous shock when we received this latest National Grid document.

“You have moved away from the corridor you agreed and put pylons right through the parish of Portbury.

“You have put it right next to our homes and we are livid.”

Mr Mercer said: “I understand the strength of feeling. We have heard your views loud and clear. We don’t apply for anything on this until late 2013 or 14 so we have time.”

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