Wales

National Grid's pylon plans meet opposition in north Wales

Pylon and wind turbine
Image caption Those opposed to pylons are asking whether cables can be buried

National Grid is inviting views on its plans to bring power from offshore wind farms and Wylfa B into the electricity network in the next 10 to 15 years.

Five initial proposals include laying cables under sea to Deeside or burying power lines from Anglesey underground.

Burying lines would cost £1bn more than National Grid's preferred option of pylons and overhead lines between Wylfa and the Pentir substation near Bangor.

Some locals claim the alternatives to pylons have been less well publicised.

The National Grid is charged to upgrade and extend the electricity infrastructure as part of a £110bn investment in energy in Britain.

According to National Grid staff, who have been touring Anglesey and Gwynedd publicising the consultation, they want people to approach them with questions or concerns.

This consultation echoes some of the concerns voiced in mid Wales with the proposed Powys-Shropshire connection.

To facilitate planned wind farms there, almost 30 miles (48km) of pylons are being planned including a new sub-station near Cefn Coch. Many locals oppose these plans.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of investment is earmarked in other parts of Wales, in Snowdonia's National Park and Ynys Mon's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

But just as in Powys, some landowners and local residents are realising that National Grid's preferred option focuses its consultation on offering four possible pylon routes.

There seems to be support for offshore wind turbines and the job prospects that could come with a new nuclear power station, but what some of Anglesey's 68,000 residents also want is to get rid of unsightly pylons.

Building a new line, to add to the existing 20 miles (32km) of pylons across the island, is likely to be opposed by some.

Independent councillor Alun Mummery, who represents Llanfairpwll, said National Grid had not been "up front" about the options.

"They've tried to take away from the equation the fact that there is a call for underground or under sea [cables]," he said.

"They said it was not their preferred option so they didn't put it out to discussion really."

One influential landowner on the island is the Bodorgan Estate, where general manager Tim Bowie also has reservations about new pylons.

"I think that most of the consultations have been poorly attended, certainly the one I went to at the local school," he said.

"I attended with a colleague and there were only five of us there which means that from the local community there were only three other people present.

"I think the consultation is also flawed in other areas. It immediately dismisses the sub-sea route and we've been told that it's unacceptable because of the cost."

With old coal power stations being closed down Britain needs new energy plants - and wind farms, gas and nuclear power stations are seen as the answers.

Llywelyn Rhys, of Renewable UK Cymru, said: "We're moving forward quickly to an energy gap and we have to plan to secure our energy supply for the future.

"In terms of the location of the consultations, as we move to more low carbon generating sources such as offshore wind and onshore wind in rural areas, we obviously have to extend the grid to places that maybe haven't previously experienced grid infrastructure before."

National Grid manager Martin Kinsey said no decisions have been made yet.

"This is all about consultation, we're here to listen to what local people have to say," he said.

"We've looked at placing the connection below the sea as well as placing it above and below the ground.

"There is a question of cost - it is £1bn more expensive to look at the alternatives and that's £1bn that will ultimately end up on people's electricity bills.

"We believe that the right proposal is for a transmission line across Anglesey. But we have said that in areas of high sensitivity we will consider undergrounding that connection."

Visual impact

National Grid officials are still considering how to deal with opposition in mid Wales, and will already be aware of the grumbling that has started in Gwynedd and Anglesey.

The Welsh government said energy connections were wholly a matter for the UK government, but added: "We recognise the importance of strengthening the grid in north Wales to future-proof the network. However we are also mindful of the impact that the new infrastructure will have on communities in north Wales.

"That is why we will continue to engage with the National Grid on new grid infrastructure within north Wales and to encourage mitigation of the visual impact of any potential new transmission lines."

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