North Somerset residents turn out in force to tell power chiefs their pylon fears
Western Daily Press, November 28, 2009
Hundreds of people packed a public meeting to grill National Grid bosses about plans to erect a new 400,000 volt power line through the North Somerset countryside.
Around 700 people attended last night's meeting at the Scotch Horn Leisure Centre in Nailsea, organised by the Save Our Valley campaign group, with dozens having to be turned away at the door.
The centre's main hall was standing room only and organisers were forced to rig up a sound system to another room packed full with more than 100 residents from Nailsea and the surrounding villages of Backwell and Wraxall.
The public meeting comes a day after more than 1,300 people visited an exhibition at the centre by National Grid.
The Save our Valley (SOV) group launched last month to fight off plans by National Grid to create a new line from Bridgwater to Avonmouth to bring electricity from the proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point onto its transmission network.
The power giant is looking at a series of options for the new line, along two routes - one of which would cut through the countryside from Wraxall to Backwell and Nailsea.
The line - complete with 160ft high pylons - would go over Wraxall Hill and pass the school and church and then down next to The Elms before crossing Backwell Common, going along the railway line and Backwell Lake towards Youngwood Lane.
The other corridor runs to the west of Nailsea and out towards Tickenham.
At the meeting residents called on National Grid to consider putting the cables under the Severn Estuary and publish detailed costs for doing so.
But power bosses said the technology was not readily available and any scheme to bury the cables under the sea bed would be technically difficult and could cost around £1 billion.
They also said the cost of putting the cables underground would be up to 17 times more expensive than using overhead lines.
People accused National Grid of putting the cost of the scheme ahead of the needs of the local community.
Nailsea Town Council chairman, Councillor Mary Ponsonby, said: "Nailsea is a lovely place to live and we do not want our town ringfenced by pylons.
"It is shameful that National Grid says it does not have the technology to put these cables underground when it is done in other parts of the world.
"You are putting pennies before people."
Parents in the audience also raised concerns about the potential health impact of the pylons.
A Nailsea mother-of-two said: "I am sick with worry that these pylons could increase the risk of childhood leukaemia.
"National Grid is playing Russian roulette with our children's lives."
Woodspring MP Dr Liam Fox, who chaired the meeting, said: "Nailsea is not a 'nimby' town but we need clear answers to our many questions."
A decision on which route corridor will be used is expected in January and then work will start on preparing a route study and alignment and environmental surveys will be carried out.
An application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), who will decide on the scheme, will be made in the summer of 2010.
A decision will not be made until the summer of 2012 at the earliest and work could start in 2013.
National Grid projects manager, David Mercer, said: "We recognise how difficult this is for the local community as a 400,000 volt line is a big line. However, we have an obligation under the Energy Act to provide a cost effective solution."
Save our Valley campaign chairman, Professor Keith Hall said: "This issue does not end tonight and we will carry on campaigning."
The campaign has attracted more than 2,000 members and a website has been set up - www.save-our-valley.co.uk - as well as a Facebook page.
The meeting was recorded and will now be available to watch on the campaign website.