Offshore Wind Energy Debate

14th March 2019

Last month, I was forced to cancel a previous debate I had secured in Parliament on the issue of major energy companies seeking to locate the infrastructure in Norfolk and Suffolk (at landfall, the length of their cabling route and their onshore substation connections to the National Grid) in order to speak at an Open Floor Hearing concerning one of the major offshore wind farm applications already in the pipeline – Vattenfall UK’s Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Windfarm.

This week I secured and led a debate in Parliament to highlight the important issues raised by the planned development, at which the Minister gave some important undertakings and received the support of a number of other MP’s from across Norfolk and Suffolk.

While I am a major advocate for offshore renewable energy (and previously helped to negotiate with Dudgeon to move their substation away from the deeply unpopular site on the top of a hill in Little Dunham to a lower lying location that was broadly supported by the public in nearby Necton), it is clear that with at least another 10 offshore wind farm projects on the way we need a proper strategic plan for the necessary infrastructure to connect them all to the National Grid onshore to maximise efficiency, reduce waste and cost, and avoid unnecessary landscape, environmental and economic disruption across our county.

We now have two more substations (these are the size of Wembley Stadium!) coming to Necton, with 150km of high voltage cabling being buried in trenches across the county). As before, the developer, in this case Vattenfall, have proposed putting the structures on top of a hill - affecting over 5 villages. Local views aren't being heard and the developer is not prepared to discuss putting the station in low lying land, relying on the special planning rules for nationally significant infrastructure to override local concerns.

After 3 years of working with many villages and Parish Councils, this week I raised the issues in a debate in Parliament. The Minister gave a number of important undertakings - including supporting the call for a proper Offshore Ring Main - and has agreed to meet with me, other MPs, Councillors and organisations concerned at the impact on our countryside and communities and I am now convening an Offshore Energy Connection Plan Alliance (OECPA) to pursue this. 

To watch the debate in full, this can be viewed below:

 

If you would prefer to read The Hansard text from the debate, you can find this here.

I am also delighted to support the petition to make offshore windfarms connect to the grid via an Offshore Ring Main. I am firmly committed to continuing the fight for a proper strategic plan both locally and nationally and will work to push this in Parliament. The petition can be viewed and signed here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/240822

For all of those of us that love and appreciate our beautiful landscape here in the East, it is clear that the chaotic “free for all” approach currently being taken cannot be allowed to continue. With proper debate and an overall strategic plan, we can ensure that the huge environmental and planning impacts currently being faced are significantly reduced – all the while delivering the much needed offshore renewable wind energy that our future economy and society will need.

We owe it to the generations who will come after us to get this right and leave our county as beautiful as we found it.

If you - or anyone you know would like to be kept informed or have any feedback or comments, then please do feel free to share them with me via george.freeman.mp@parliament.uk

Media Coverage Following Adjournment Debate:

MP calls for debate to avoid ‘major environmental impact’ of offshore windfarm projects:

https://www.northnorfolknews.co.uk/news/george-freeman-in-debate-over-norfolk-and-suffolk-windfarms-1-5932011

 

Communities left ‘cut out’ by plans for windfarms which include substation the size of Wembley stadium – MP:

https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/politics/george-freeman-in-debate-over-norfolk-and-suffolk-windfarms-1-5932011

 

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/george-freeman-in-debate-over-norfolk-and-suffolk-windfarms-1-5932011

 

https://www.wattonandswaffhamtimes.co.uk/news/george-freeman-in-debate-over-norfolk-and-suffolk-windfarms-1-5932011

 

MP's concerns over power cables and substations:

 

https://www.itv.com/news/anglia/update/2019-03-12/mps-concerns-over-power-cables-and-substations/

 

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