A leading planning barrister has slammed the National Grid (NG) consultation process in a damning legal review of the highly controversial 180 km-long East Anglia pylons project.
London-based Charles Banner QC warns that the “deficient consultation exercise” has really been no more than one of “back-checking”.
National Grid discounting alternative options
He told the Essex Suffolk Norfolk Pylons action group, “It is plain that NG has already resolved to proceed with this project and to discount alternative options – including those which involve no, or considerably fewer pylons – including underground and/or undersea routes and/or upgrading existing infrastructure.”
He added: “Furthermore, NG has failed to evaluate the relative environmental impacts of the preferred route corridor against alternatives which involve no, or considerably fewer pylons. But NG is actually under a legal duty to have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty, of conserving flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest and of protecting sites, buildings and objects of architectural or archaeological interest.
“The lay public consultees have not been provided with anything approaching a sufficient level of information to enable them to make an intelligent comparison of the environmental impacts of the preferred option compared to options which involve no, or considerably fewer, pylons.”
He concluded: “If left uncorrected these legal deficiencies will infect the later statutory consultation.”
The action group is battling National Grid’s 180km-long power line and 50-metre high pylons proposal across prime East Anglian countryside.
“The public has been presented with a proposal that is effectively a fait accompli.“
The group’s spokesperson, Rosie Pearson, said: “Our QC has agreed with us that National Grid’s pylons consultation is just not worth the paper it is written on. The public has simply been presented with a proposal NG has already set its heart on – effectively a fait accompli. It’s a disgrace that we have been given insufficient information to make an informed response.”
National Grid: “greenwashing”
Pearson has been critical of the consultation process, accusing National Grid of ‘greenwashing’ and failing to address the wider issues of running new cabling across East Anglia, such as the potential effects on health, wildlife, finances and the longer-term planning around power distribution.
She also points out that a subsea grid which would keep the cabling offshore from the windfarms to Tilbury was never presented in the consultation. This is despite the fact that National Grid themselves found it offered environmental and socio-economic benefits, plus a £6 billion saving for consumers.
“We are sending National Grid a 60-page technical submission of our own,” Pearson says. “We share Mr Banner’s view that the only remedy is to scrap this not-fit-for-purpose consultation and rerun it with a full range of alternatives.”
The action group’s petition now has over 17,000 signatures.
The National Grid’s East Anglia GREEN consultation ends on Thursday 16 June.