My response to the National Grid’s Pylons Consultation

Dear Sir / Madam,
I write in response to National Grid’s consultation on the north Wales connection, and to reiterate my opposition to the proposed plan to erect a new line of pylons across Anglesey.

You will already know from my response to previous consultations, and several conversations and correspondence with the Grid, that I strongly favour finding an alternative solution and that I support putting cables underground rather than overhead. Having spoken to a number of local residents and organisations, and having attended several public meetings on the subject, I know that this is the opinion of the majority on the island, and elected representatives at every level – myself as Assembly Member, the local MP, MEP, and Anglesey’s Councillors – have all spoken unanimously against pylons.
In spite of the strong local opposition and the fact that previous Grid consultations showed clearly that the large majority of people did not favour pylons, it is extremely disappointing that the Grid is still concentrating on this option. There has been no compromise, and there is not enough evidence that other options have been seriously considered.
It seems that the cost is the key factor for National Grid rather than the technical factors regarding putting cables underground. However, I believe that the cost to the people of Anglesey of having a new line of pylons would be heavy and unfair. The Grid seems to be asking the people of Anglesey to pay to provide the rest of the UK with the cheapest possible transmission option. People on Anglesey would be paying through the reduced value of their homes and the tourism industry – worth £250m a year to the island – would be under threat. I strongly urge you therefore to make a more detailed cost analysis before coming to a decision, and I’m disappointed that this has not already been done, considering the impact on the people and economy of Anglesey. Ofgem recently agreed to my request to ask Grid to conduct such an assessment, and I look forward to seeing its results.
In addition to the economic impact, I believe that grid should give more consideration to the environmental impact of new pylons. National Grid recently announced they’ll spend hundreds of millions of pounds undergrounding cables in the Lake District to reduce the environmental impact. Anglesey deserves no less. Anglesey may not be a National Park, but the island is a UNESCO Geopark and blessed with several Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and our natural beauty is as important to Anglesey as it is to any National Park.
I note the Grid’s decision not to put cables over the Menai Straits. The truth, of course, is that they had no intention to put overhead cables over the Menai Straits from the beginning as they knew they would not get permission to do so. I don’t believe that building a tunnel for cables is the best option. There would be less environmental impact through having the Grid contribute towards the cost of a new bridge, to dual the present Britannia Bridge, by putting cables on that new bridge. Spending maybe £150m on a tunnel now, and another £150m on a bridge in coming years would be a scandalous waste of public money when two birds could be killed with one stone.

Also, if the Grid chooses not to put cables across the Menai Straits to protect the natural environment of the Menai area, isn’t the same thing true of the need to protect the natural environment of Anglesey as a whole, by undergrounding across the whole island?

Another argument is that of resilience. I believe that the intention of putting two rows of pylons next to each other raises a question of resilience in terms of connection to the Wylfa Newydd power plant. A number of possible factors, such as bad weather or an accident, could lead to losing the connection. Putting cables underground would prevent that.
I ask you once again to consider the concerns of local residents and to make the necessary investment in an alternative solution that would not have such a negative impact on the island’s environment, scenery, tourism and economy. According to the Grid, the cost would be an additional £400m – a small sum in the context of electricity infrastructure investments like this.
Yours sincerely,
Assembly Member for Ynys Môn