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87-mile, 420-pylon network through Lincolnshire only long-term solution to bring down bills, say National Grid

Despite concerns that an 87-mile 420-pylon electricity network through Lincolnshire’s countryside could decimate farmland and become an eyesore, National Grid claims it is the only long-term solution to bring down electricity bills.

The Great Grid Upgrade is a vision by National Grid to run a new 400,000-volt electricity transmission line and multiple 400kV substations in Lincolnshire — with the network stretching from Grimsby in North East Lincolnshire to Walpole in Norfolk.

A major sticking point, other than the aesthetics and potential impact on agriculture, is the cost. National Grid say using pylons would cost £1.07 billion, with customers paying for this through their bills over the next 40 years.

A high voltage electricity transmission pylon
A high voltage electricity transmission pylon

National Grid also says the costs were a major factor in the decision to opt for pylons, saying subsea or underground cabling alternatives would be four times and six times more expensive respectively.

It claims offshore subsea cabling would cost £4.39 billion and onshore underground cabling would cost even more than that at £6.54 billion — but protestors against the project have their doubts over this.

Simon Adderley, 59, is a founding member of the No Pylons Lincolnshire group, and says the £1 billion cost estimate for pylons does not align with Green Book guidance, which applies to all proposals that concern public spending.

The proposed route
The proposed route

He argues that the £1 billion cited is only for the pylons themselves, and does not factor in installation and maintenance, as well as the potential depreciation of house values, damages to farmland, or the cost of the substations that need to be built alongside the pylons — which he says cost £500 million each.

“When you factor all of this in, that gap suddenly starts rapidly narrowing,” he said.

References were made to another National Grid project, the Viking Link, which was 473km (some 330km more than this project) but had estimated costs of £1.7 billion.

Skegness & Boston MP Matt Warman. Photo: James Turner
Skegness & Boston MP Matt Warman. Photo: James Turner

National Grid says this is because Viking Link is 1,400MW, around 25% of the 6GW+ capacity that is needed for the pylon network.

“With this you would need six high voltage direct current cables and six converter substations at each end of the link,” the energy company states.

“Building new networks to connect cheaper, cleaner electricity is the only way to bring energy bills down long term.

Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill. Photo: James Turner
Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill. Photo: James Turner

“Our role is to future proof the electricity grid for years to come by carefully developing proposals with environmental and biodiversity considerations that represent value for money for all consumers, facilitating the transition to a clean, fair, and affordable energy future.”

However, Simon argues that this project is paid for through the standing charge, with infrastructure costs passing across the supply chain in 40-year periods.

He fears that as one cost drops away after 40 years, another is added on with more and more project development.

“This is not about the cost of electricity, but the cost of the standing charge itself,” he added. “We lose out forever and they make a profit.”

National Grid has provided a full breakdown of strategic considerations, cost factors and more in a comprehensive report that can be accessed here.

The pylons in question would be 50m high, which is 33m shorter than the largest landmarks in the county — Boston Stump and Lincoln Cathedral — and the equivalent of around 10 standard bungalows on top of each other.

The first round of public consultation on this proposal closed this week, with over 4,500 pieces of feedback to National Grid formally received — whether that be filling out online forms, email contact or attending an in-person event.

There has also been vocal opposition beyond the official realms of consultation.

Find out about planning applications that affect you at the Public Notice Portal.

A petition calling for the plan to be halted amassed over 6,000 signatures, and the No Pylons Lincolnshire group on social media has over 3,500 members at the time of reporting.

A spokesperson for National Grid said views will be “carefully” considered as the future of the proposal is shaped, ahead of further consultation next year.

“The Grimsby to Walpole public consultations have generated a lot of interest. We are very grateful to the local community and stakeholders who have shared their views with us.”

It would span across Lincolnshire’s rural landscape, prompting fears that it could turn sections of The Lincolnshire Wolds — the county’s primary Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty — into an eyesore.

Local residents have been backed up in their concerns by councils on district and county level, as well as Members of Parliament across Greater Lincolnshire.

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Louth & Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins (Conservative), who is also the Health Secretary, expressed “particular concern about the proximity of the pylons to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” the Lincolnshire Wolds.

This was echoed by Boston & Skegness MP Matt Warman, who said the Lincolnshire coastline is a “jewel in England’s crown” that “deserves to be protected,” while Great Grimsby MP Lia Nici (Conservative) said it would be “preferable” to opt for underground cables rather than pylons, which she says can be a “blight on the landscape.”

Lincolnshire County Council has taken this one step further by commissioning an independent report into the real-term impact of these plans on farmland and the local economy.

Council Leader Martin Hill also threatened potential legal action to “challenge the reasoning” of the upgrade, if that becomes necessary.

“The council’s view is that National Grid have dismissed a valid alternative of putting the cables on the sea-bed,” Coun Hill said.

“(National Grid) instead plan to blight our landscape and affect our countryside and coastal communities for generations to come.”

In response to these concerns from local dignitaries, a spokesperson for National Grid said it had not dismissed alternatives, and instead opted for not placing a “significant extra cost” on customers.

“The electricity upgrade between Grimsby and Walpole is essential in the government’s ambition to connect 50GW of offshore wind by 2030 and is part of a wider programme to upgrade the entire network.

“We are very grateful to everyone who has shared their views with us. Feedback from local communities and stakeholders is vital as this, along with the results of surveys and assessments carried out by the project team, will inform our work as we develop the project further.”

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