Offshore Wind Farms and Vattenfall

As a long-time advocate of the move towards renewable energy, I am a major supporter of Offshore Wind Energy – and have previously worked with local communities to ensure that the associated onshore infrastructure is located in the right place.

Between 2010-2013, I attended a number of public meetings in Little Dunham to listen to local concerns about Dudgeon’s proposals to build a new substation on top of a hill in the village – a location that would have meant it was an eyesore for several other communities in the area. By working tirelessly together, we managed to agree with Dudgeon that the substation would instead be located at a low-lying site in nearby Necton and, therefore, avoided any long term disillusionment with offshore wind energy in the area. (To read more, click here , here and here)

George attending a public meeting in Little Dunham back in 2010

George attending a public meeting in Little Dunham back in 2010.

That’s why, when I became aware back in 2017 that Vattenfall UK were hoping to build the two substations for their proposed Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farms in Necton also, I was optimistic about working with them to negotiate a compromise with the community that would see the substations situated in the right place, and in return for substantial community benefits to compensate the local villages for the massive impact and disruption that they would face. (Read more here)

(From my conversations with residents and councillors in the village, the number one issue that always comes up is the horrendous A47 Necton/Dunham junction and the urgent need for improvements to be made there. It was my hope to persuade Vattenfall that this should form the basis of a package of benefits for the village – should their applications eventually prove successful)

Necton

Unfortunately however, such compromise has not been possible. Despite a willingness by the local community to engage in conversations on the appropriate siting of the substations in the village, Vattenfall have responded to any such overtures by simply stating that their choice is based on the extensive consultation that has been carried out.

Having attended the site myself on several occasions over the past two years (see here), I can firmly understand the widespread confusion as to how Vattenfall have come to the decision to choose this location. Again, it is situated on top of some of the highest land in the area and will see two structures each about the size of Wembley Stadium constructed, if approval is granted by the Secretary of State. This means they would not just be visible to Necton, but five other villages too! It makes no sense!

George joining local landowners for a site visit at the site in Necton

George joining local landowners for a site visit at the site in Necton.

Compounded by Vattenfall’s poor response to queries from the public, their decision not to engage at this time with local representatives regarding community benefits (on the basis of Scottish guidance) and their decision to stop attending the meetings I regularly convene with local community representatives, this has created a consensus in Necton and the surrounding villages that Vattenfall have deliberately designed their consultation to be a sham “tick-box” exercise that, while meeting the Planning Inspectorate/Secretary of State’s required standards, manages to largely ignore the opinions of local people.

George meets with members of the local Taskforce

George meets with members of the local Taskforce.

Vattenfall clearly believe they can bulldoze through their proposals by exploiting the fact that Nationally Significant Infrastructure bypasses the typical local planning processes.

That’s why I continue to actively support the local communities in their opposition to Vattenfall’s proposals in their current form by encouraging them to set up a Taskforce that could liaise with me, and coordinate the efforts of local people.

(To read more on some of the representations that I have submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, and others, on behalf of the local community, please see links here: Relevant Representation, Letter to Breckland concerning Plane Crash site, Written Representation, Further Plane Crash concernsPost-Hearing Submission and Concerns regarding Vattenfall's conduct)

It is also why I committed to securing debate in Westminster to highlight the wider policy matter in question.

Unfortunately, the initial date I had secured for a debate had to be postponed in order so that I could personally voice my concerns with the current proposals being put forward by Vattenfall at the Planning Inspectorate’s Open Floor Hearing in Norwich. (Read more here)

George speaks at the Open Floor Hearing in February.

George speaks at the Open Floor Hearing in February.

I was delighted, however, to be able to secure a rearranged date for the debate in March – at which the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth responded to the points being raised. (You can watch the full debate here).

With at least another dozen offshore wind farms likely to be built off the Norfolk/Suffolk coastline, the East of England is to become the “epicentre” of this industry in our country and I was pleased the debate received the support of a number of other MP’s from across Norfolk and Suffolk.

George speaking in the Adjournment Debate

George speaking in the Adjournment Debate

To bring the electricity produced onshore, National Grid are proposing that each one has its own cabling and its own substation. This is bonkers. It is obvious to just about everyone who has looked at this that there ought to be an Offshore Ring Main with one or two connections onshore to the Grid - paid for by the consortia behind the farms (which are all heavily subsidised by taxpayers). 

I am delighted that the local press has been looking at this idea in further depth. (See here)

Whilst I support offshore renewable wind energy, it is vital that the cabling and connectivity infrastructure is properly planned: to maximise efficiency, reduce waste and cost, and to avoid unnecessary landscape, environmental and economic disruption across our county.

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. I am now convening an Offshore Energy Connection Plan Alliance (OECPA) to pursue this. 

A petition has also been launched to make offshore windfarms connect to the Grid via an Offshore Ring Main. (To read more and to sign this, a link to the petition can be found here).

Together - we CAN make a difference. 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.

To be kept informed of this campaign, do check back on the page as it is updated regularly to reflect my ongoing work.

George meets with members of the local Taskforce
George speaks at the Open Floor Hearing in February.

DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT

I am not currently an MP, as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election on 12th December 2019.

You can contact me on george@georgefreeman.co.uk.

My Work in Westminster

  Click here to see my work in Parliament
  and Government on a Conservative
  Programme for the 21st Century.

Publications


George Freeman: New technology can save the NHS

21st September 2015 There is a truth in our society that we can no longer ignore. With a rapidly ageing population, the UK faces a new demographic reality. | ConservativeHome



George Freeman: How technology will transform care and debate about our NHS

18th January 2015 The technological revolutions which have transformed so much of our economy and society are about to transform healthcare. | ConservativeHome


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