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NEWS (see also PLACE résumé)

Note abbreviations used on this page:

Campaign for National Parks - CNP
Campaign to Protect Rural England - CPRE
Countryside Council for Wales - CCW
Department of Energy and Climate Change - DECC
Friends of the Peak District - FPD
National Grid - NG
National Park - NP
Ofgem - Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (govt)
Peak District National Park Authority - PDNPA
Peak District National Park - PDNP
Thorpe Marsh to Stalybridge 400kV overhead transmission line - 4ZO
Transpennine Trail - TPT
United Utilities - UU
underground - ug
overhead transmission line - ohtl

JA - Jonathan Adamson
AD - Andrew Darke

April 2013

NG notifies Stakeholders of a postponement of further meetings until a new strategy has been made for the new money announced by Ofgem for reducing impacts on visual amenity.

January 2013

PLACE writes to Ofgem thanking it for the new allowances for visual amenity improvements which seem to be the result of its new Stakeholder Engagement policy working well and gaining results. Informally PLACE discovers that it had a significant influence in the outcome regarding visual amenity in the Final Proposals.

December 2012

Ofgem issues a press release about its Final Proposals for the RIIO-T1 2013-2021 regulatory period which includes:
"Ofgem has improved funding arrangements to mitigate the visual impact of new and existing infrastructure. There will be £500m initially available for transmission companies in relation to existing infrastructure in areas of natural beauty. For new infrastructure, approximately £470m will be available to enable undergrounding." ofgem.gov.uk/media/pressrelea...
This represents a major breakthrough in the reduction of the impact of ohls on the landscape and people and a major success for the conservation lobby.

October 2012

AD and Ruth Chambers (freelance environmental consultant, former acting director of CNP) meet with three members of NG's top management to discuss AD's proposed Corporate Strategy for NG towards a 'no pylons future'.
The many benefits, unforeseen by a company which seems to accept the necessity of intrusive infrastructure, to the company of such a strategy were outlined by AD and a vigorous discussion ensued. Whilst some of the benefits were admitted, plenty of tired arguments were re-run demonstrating a stiffness of management response. A report of the meeting was sent to the CEO (UK).
This meeting and strategy was something of a blue-sky idea worked up and presented by AD against the wishes of JA.

September 2012

AD attends NG's "Sustainability Summit" a high level two day conference including at least 300 of NG's own employees and attended by both the US and UK CEOs. A fascinating exercise where NG was principally talking to its own employees, getting them to engage fully with, (and make!), a new sustainability policy for the company. One important aspect of this policy being to ensure nothing goes to landfill two years on. There was a distinct shortage of members of the conservation lobby! Nevertheless, the prospect of a 'no pylons' future was raised and briefly discussed. It was clear that many of NG's own staff are concerned about the hit NG makes on the environment with its infrastructure.

JA attends a Stakeholder 4ZO Longdendale update meeting at PDNPA's offices.

August 2012

AD, JA attend NG's "Willingness to Pay" Stakeholder Workshop giving feedback on the NG commissioned Accent Report which found a strong public wish to pay for ohls to be placed u/g in NPs, AONBs and other high quality landscapes through their electricity bills. Ofgem's initial proposal of granting £100m u/g allowance to NG was woefully inadequate and this was strongly expressed by most stakeholders present.
PLACE submits ideas and proposals to Ofgem as a result of the above Workshop.

March-July 2012

Ongoing dialogue between Sustainable Energy Policy dept. of Ofgem and PLACE which is seeking clarifications on policy regarding NG's 4ZO project and on the proposals set out in Ofgem's RIIO-T1 document.

June 2012

NG postpones it's next consultation on pylon repair and new digital visualisations of 4ZO saying it would be better to see Ofgem's Initial Proposals (a revised version of RIIO-T1)first.

May 2012

CPRE/FPD, Sheffield and PLACE agree to a full collaboration on trying to achieve a full u/g solution between Woodhead Tunnel (west) to Stalybridge.

February 2012

The long overdue report "Electricity Costing Study - AN INDEPENDENT REPORT ENDORSED BY THE INSTITUTE OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY" which can be found at http://www.theiet.org/factfiles/transmission-report.cfm posts a headline figure of a cost ratio underground : overhead of 5 : 1 rather than the much quoted 10 : 1

January 2012

AD and JA met with Ofgem officials on 24.01.12 to discuss a range of issues around the new regulatory framework in Ofgem's  RIIO-T1 document with particular regard to visual amenity and how Transmission Operators (TOs) should mitigate the impact of their infrastructure on the environment. New 'Willingness to Pay' (for undergrounding) research by NG was also discussed. An important clarification from Ofgem says that TOs would need to make a case for mitigation works which are cost effective in the long term - ie. Costs of loss of amenity, loss of tourist income, health problems, loss of property value etc. over the 40 year life of the line would need to be calculated. A full agenda of the meeting with notes and clarifications is here. The higher costs involved in undergrounding power cables are very likely to be environmentally, socially and financially justifiable when calculated over 40 years - in fact it may well turn out be cheaper in most cases to underground once the long term costs to the community over 40 years of NOT undergrounding are fully understood! This is the first time these social costs have been overtly acknowledged by Ofgem and it is a significant step forward.

The email below was received after PLACE expressed its concern over the repeated use by the BBC of the 10 : 1 figure for underground : overhead power transmission installation costs.

"Dear Mr Darke, I have circulated your very interesting letter to colleagues in news and current affairs and elsewhere. Assuming the figures you give and the calculations you make are borne out I hope it will mean that the 10x figure quoted by the industry for the differential in cost between burying electricity cables and carrying them by pylon will not be accepted uncritically in future output.

Yours sincerely, David Jordan, Director Editorial Policy and Standards, BBC"

November 2011

AD and JA attend a NG workshop in London on visual amenity. Brunswick Research present the analysis of their 'Willingness To Pay' (for undergrounding electricity cables) research. We are told views expressed will feed into new NG policy. Other organisations present include: Scottish Power, Ofgem, The Landscape Institute, Scottish Natural Heritage, DECC, CNP, Natural England, Suffolk County Council, CPRE, English Heritage, CCW, Which?, Snowdonia Society, The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, Sedgemoor District Council.

Three members of NG's Western Alliance team working on the 4ZO project accompany PLACE members on a walk over Bleaklow, an area of the northern Dark Peak rising above the Longdendale Valley in the PDNP where NG is currently installing new cables. This an attempt to help NG understand the importance and fragility of wild landscapes.

October 2011

At a workshop meeting at National Grid's Chorley offices there is further lengthy discussion of technical aspects of NG's proposals. PLACE tables a photomontage of NG's new cable circuit at Woodhead. NG assures us that all our submissions to the consultation will appear in the consultation matrix of the Final Report. We request that the ohl outside the boundary of the NP to Stalybridge be given more attention because of its high impact on the Park and beyond. We also request our alternative Executive Summary be printed immediately after NG's own at the front of the document, pointing out our perception of a deep industry bias towards building overhead lines and against underground cables. NG disputes these observations.

PLACE invites the NG team to a walk over the Bleaklow area of the Dark Peak into which Longdendale and the 4ZO line runs.

September 2011

After a lengthy question and answer session at a feedback meeting at NG's Ambergate offices another workshop is arranged for further detailed questions. NG apologises to PLACE for some omissions from the Final Draft but NG's work on our routeing suggestion shows it has not been understood. We are told the stalled IET KEMA Study has new consultants and will report in December and that this is where NGs response to the German undergrounding figures will appear. (see May 2010 below).

August 2011

We receive NG's Woodhead to Stalybridge (4ZO) 400kV Long Term Future Study with just seven weeks for initial responses before a feedback meeting in late September. The Study is deeply flawed from PLACE's perspective omitting much material that has been asked for and promised by NG. Landscape assessments are sketchy, inadequately illustrated and often highly contentious. The document does not represent the consultation we have been part of and omits significant parts of PLACE's input. We submit many questions and a lengthy letter. A deep seated industry bias towards ohls and against underground cables is once again evident.

July 2011

Ofgem asks the conservation lobby for its views regarding a regular landscape forum. A suggestion for two meetings per year, one at Ofgem's offices and one out on a relevant site is widely appreciated by conservationists. This has emerged as a direct result of the June meeting set up by PLACE. We submit our views on NG's wtp survey to Ofgem.

NG calls a meeting of interested parties at PDNPAs offices to deliver its long delayed Woodhead to Stalybridge (4ZO) 400kV Long Term Future Study - Final Draft. AD meets with NGs engineers to discuss technical cable and undergrounding issues. AD puts forward design ideas which for the most part are dismissed. There is a strong impression of a conservative and highly risk-averse industry.

June 2011

PLACE and CNP meet the Head of Sustainable Energy at Ofgem. Ofgem asks for and PLACE agrees to forward its views on NG's recently published survey regarding 'Willingness to Pay' (wtp) for undergrounding. We point out that Ofgem has numerous meetings with NG and very few with the conservation lobby and that this is unsatisfactory. CNP proposes regular meetings between the connservation lobby and Ofgem.

March 2011

AD attends NG's London public workshop on its approach to undergrounding. Robust views are expressed by many consultees regarding the need to avoid more ohls being built and the need to reduce the current impact of transmission infrastructure on the environment.

February 2011

NG meets PLACE as part of its public consultation on undergrounding and the routeing of HV transmission lines. PLACE offers revised text for NG's new 'Approach to Undergrounding' document. PLACE responds to Ofgem's public consultation on its corporate strategy. We express concerns at the narrow view of what 'public benefit' seems to mean in the strategy. ie. economic benefit only.

December 2010

PLACE submits the German example of undergrounding costs as evidence to the IET / KEMA study into the costs of undergrounding high voltage transmission cables. The Study is due to report Jan 2011.

November 2010

Funds for research proving difficult to find, no further news of the Study from NG.

July 2010

NG informs all consultees that the final draft of their Woodhead to Stalybridge (4ZO) 400kV Long Term Future Study is delayed and expected in the autumn. The long promised responses to the German undergrounding figures fail to materialise.

June 2010

CPRE informs PLACE that it is now seeking funds for the research project below and PLACE agrees to assist where possible.

May 2010

PLACE brokers a dialogue between Professor Oswald, author of the report upon which the German Bundestag took its decision in 2008 to place at least 200km of some 600km of new 380kV line underground in Germany, and NG. PLACE meets CPRE to discuss a research project into the total cost to the community of not placing 400kV transmission lines underground.

March 2010

Despite letters, phone calls and emails from PLACE to NG, neither the final draft of the study nor any of the promised information / responses have been received.

November 2009

NG arranged a two day workshop on ohtls and ug. cabling at its Failsworth premises. Day 1 opened with a full presentation of facts and figures on ohtls with the remainder of the day given to question and answer and discussion. Day 2 had a similar format for ug cabling. NG said for the first time that a surface trough down Longdendale which could be walked and cycled over to form the TPT was viable. NG explained the research it is undertaking to find a more heat conductive sand for use inside the troughs – should this method of transmission be used. NG asked PLACE to indicate its proposed new transmission route beyond the NP to Stalybridge which would free important moorland edge and conservation areas from the ohtl. PLACE submitted a map to NG with black line indicating the proposed route. PLACE also proposed during the workshops that spoil from any works could be used to form earth bunds either side of the A628 to help protect the moor from the road which is a serious blight on the moor. Members of the PDNPA agreed that such a form of mitigation could be feasible. NG suggests the final draft of the study should ready early 2010 with final publication in March.

October 2009

NG arranges two site visits for 1st. and 13th. They were attended by the NG team and one of its cabling experts, PDNPA, PLACE, UU, CPRE/FPD, TPT official and others. The visit consisted of a walk from the west end of Woodhead Tunnel down the Transpennine Trail parallel with 4ZO to UU’s offices beside the A628. PLACE pointed out that 4ZO continues through the PDNP and said that the walk should at least continue to the point the line exits the NP. The walk was not extended. PLACE was also concerned that its proposed alternative route was not being examined carefully enough.
On the second visit the walk did continue until the exit of the ohtl from the NP could be seen. PLACE was again concerned that little attention was given to its alternative route and that there was no discussion of the possibilities for Option 7.

September 2009

At a consultation called by NG and attended by PDNPA, PLACE, UU, CPRE/FPD, and others NG presented an Interim Report on its Stalybridge to Woodhead (4ZO) 400kV Line Longterm Future Study. Options 1,2,4,5 are to be taken further; options 3,6,7,8,9 – no further work. PLACE expressed concern that its proposed alternative route for ug. down Longdendale be properly evaluated as NG had agreed, that a full response is needed from NG on the German undergrounding costs which PLACE has presented to them and that the direct tunnelling Option 7 was being dismissed too readily. NG agreed to address the first two concerns but failed to give any undertaking to further evaluate Option 7.

June 2009

The three PLACE artists mount a show of their individual works on themes around religion, old age, illness and death, and their collaborative work on PLACE environmental projects, in All Souls’ Church and Bankfield Museum, Halifax. 9th June – 18th July 2009.

April 2009

Janet Askew, Head of the Department of Planning and Architecture, Faculty of Environment and Technology, University of the West of England, Bristol, informs us that she has used PLACE’s work on reducing the environmental impact of mobile phone masts in her report on the subject to the Welsh Assembly. The Assembly is particularly interested in the information from PLACE. Students in her department also refer to and use PLACE’s work.

March 2009

National Grid sends its Stalybridge to Woodhead (4ZO) 400kV Line Longterm Future Study - Final Scoping Report to PLACE. The study sets out all the options for carrying power which are to be evaluated – including PLACE’s proposed route for undergrounding. NG’s timetable for work on the study and workshops with PLACE continue to slide.

Recent meetings with National Grid (NG) over the summer and early autmn have given a sense that a positive collaboration is now taking place. NG has agreed to undertake our additions to their study into the options for renewal of the Stalybridge to Woodhead 400kV overhead transmission line which runs through the Peak District National Park. NG has also taken on board design modifications proposed by us and others - Friends of the Peak District/ Campaign to Protect Rural England (FPD/CPRE), Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA), for their new control building to be placed in the railway cutting at Dunford Bridge. NG has also undertaken to improve landscaping in the area.


Steve Knight-Gregson – NG

Nigel Heally – NG
Paul Macmanus – NG;

designer/operator of NG virtual reality display; architect for the proposed new equipment building at Dunford Bridge and 4 additional members of the NG team

Councillor Pestell representing Dunford Bridge Community;

Bob Bryan – Peak District National Park Authority (NPA)

Anne Robinson  – Friends of the Peak District/ Campaign to Protect Rural England (FPD/CPRE)

Jonathan Adamson; Andrew Darke – PLACE

NG had previously circulated papers

NG did not minute this meeting

Notes taken during this meeting: 

We were collected at Pennistone Station at 1.00 p.m. by Steve Knight-Gregson and driven by him to the Dog and Partridge. During the general conversation in the car SK-G said cut and cover (along the Trans-Pennine Trail?) was a possibility.

1. The Vale of York undergrounding uses 12 (400kV) cables.

2. 6 (400kV) cables are presently planned for the 1953 Woodhead Tunnel. Provision has also been made for an additional 3 cables to meet increased demand should they be needed. Demand has increased by 1% per year (6% in London) annually [for. . . ?].

3. An undergrounding corridor of 25 meters is needed for 12 cables with a construction corridor of 50 meters.

4. If a like-for-like ohtl replaced the existing one, in Longdendale, it would have a life of 60 to 80 years ie. at least 20 years longer life than the present pylons owing to improvements in paints/galvanizing.

5. 1 circuit has 3 phases, with a single core per phase. 1 circuit is carried on each side of a pylon. "Each single circuit is capable of carrying the whole power, if need be."

6. Direct buried cables will be in cement bound sand, which dissipates heat. Also, the cables are spaced in order to dissipate heat.

7. It would need 9-12 cables to underground in Longdendale. (With? 2 cores per phase, or "more copper.") NOTE the higher cost of cabling compared to ohtls is caused principally by the cost of copper.

8. The rating in the Regents' Canal400kV double circuit is different. It carries half the power [? of the Longdendale ohtl].

9. Andrew says the upgrading of the Stalybridge sub-station is in NG's literature.

Provision to carry more power - extra cables in the 1953 tunnel. Do the cables themselves carry more power, or are they like for like in capacity? Any like for like ohtl in Longdendale would have a longer life (80 years). It is an upgrade!!!

10. Andrew says, NG say, 9 metres width would do it -, i.e., ‘surface troughing’ along the TPT.

SK-G generously gave us a lift ftom the D&P to Huddersfield. On the way he confirmed something I had meant to ask in the meeting: that it would cost £18 million for a new ohtl between Woodhead and Dunford Bridge (over the high moors), and will cost £50 million to recable through the 1953 Woodhead Tunnel.
NOTE. The underground/ohtl cost ratio is less than 3-1!!

Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA)


Bob Bryan; Fiona Draisey; Gordon Danks – NPA 
Anne Robinson; Andy Tickle – FPD/CPRE

Jonathan Adamson; Andrew Darke – PLACE 

It was agreed that the creation of a new footpath beside the river Etherow in the area of ‘the blacks’ in Upper Longdendale is problematic, as is tree planting in that area owing to its SSSI status. The desirability of protecting the area from the traffic on the A628 was acknowledged –natural regeneration on the north side of the river should be encouraged.

All acknowledged the need for full consultation with National Grid over the terms of the study to be undertaken by NG into options for the Thorpe Marsh to Stalybridge 400kV transmission line refurbishment/upgrade. All three parties agreed they would contact NG asking to be involved in creating the brief for the study, as a matter of urgency.

Trying to keep alive the potential of re-opening of the Woodhead rail link was seen to be in conflict with the possibility of using the route for power line undergrounding. PLACE asked that the rail option be dropped, given that there is currently no national or regional government support for it also given that there are two other cross-pennine routes which could be upgraded, if necessary.

PLACE believes the rail re-opening option, long cherished by FPD/CPRE, if not removed, has the potential to destroy any possibility for undergrounding in the Upper Don Valley and Longdendale. NG would use it to fudge the undergrounding discussion and an important possibility for the improvement of the NP would be lost, for 40-50 years.

PLACE thanks everyone for attending.

Since the meeting PLACE has contacted Ofgem over our concerns re NG and the Study. Ofgem will phone Steve Knight-Gregson at NG.

13.11.07 Dunford Bridge Parish council meeting attended by Peak District National Park Authority PDNPA, National Grid NG, PLACE and local people. Information was given on aspects of the NG work and PLACE mitigation proposals. PLACE has proposed tree planting, footpath upgrade and re-alignment within the National Park (NP.) PLACE's proposals were accepted in principal.

5.10.07 PLACE met with the PDNPA, NG, Campaign to Protect Rural England/Friends of the Peak District (CPRE),  to discuss next steps in PLACE's proposed mitigation work to be undertaken by NG. during its forthcoming renewal of cables in the Woodhead Tunnels (within the NP).


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