Members and visitors will have seen signs and banners in around Aldeburgh regarding Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) and be asking themselves what all the fuss is about.
The topic was first raised at a breakfast meeting in March 2019 when members discussed plans by SPR to build two windfarms (EA1N and EA2) off the coast of Thorpeness. Each windfarm will need a 9km trench for the cabling to the substation at Friston, cutting through precious heathland and numerous footpaths across wildlife havens. Worryingly, other windfarms and up to 6 further cabling trenches and substations will follow over the next 12-15 years.
It was agreed that renewable energy was of importance in the effort to drive down climate change emissions but that SPR’s intentions were not sufficiently thought through and that The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) should devise a national, coordinated offshore transmission infrastructure, such as the ones used by other North Sea countries, rather than relying on developers who are working on an uncoordinated basis. Countries like Germany have developed an offshore ring main which carries all the energy produced into one industrial site, rather than allowing multiple cabling from multiple sites, this avoids the unnecessary industrialisation of precious landscapes. There was a majority vote to oppose SPR’s intentions and the secretary at the time, Sarah Whitelock, was asked to make a submission to the consultation and monitor the situation.
At the AGM in September Sarah updated the membership on the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) Hearings on SPRs plans. There was universal concern that the construction work necessary for the cabling projects and the substation(s) would deter visitors who come to the area for the tranquillity and wildlife of the area. Concerns were also raised about the road network which is not capable of carrying the number of HGVs anticipated. Particular points were made about the junction with the A12 at Friday Street, the use of the roundabout at the entrance to the town and the disturbance to the heathland near Thorpeness as so many visitors walk along the coastal path towards Sizewell and Dunwich. All the members agreed that the construction workers brought into the area were unlikely to use the shops, restaurants and cultural attractions of Aldeburgh, Snape and Thorpeness. Although Sarah was retiring after 4 years as secretary for the ABA the membership voted unanimously for her to make a detailed written submission to PINS and to apply for a slot at a hearing.
Sarah completed a detailed submission (link below) based on SPR’s report on the impact of its plans on tourism which made worrying reading. She is still waiting to hear if she can achieve a slot at a hearing.