In their 11th February 2013 Press Release

National Grid have proposed to build a 

vastuglyutterly unnecessary 

and totally inappropriate 


on a site at the gateway to the

culturally significant 

sites and settings of the

Gainsborough heritage landscapes.

  1. VAST: the maps that National Grid have provided for their proposed site between the Waldergrave and Butlers Woods that sit beside the road from Sudbury to Halstead covers around 19 acres. Currently they say that they only need a type of substation that would fit onto around one acre of land, so what do they want the rest of the site for? Certainly we have found that many of National Grid's proposals are about far more than they say they are. In this case, UK Power Networks (UKPN), our local distribution grid operator wants National Grid to build a substation with twice the capacity National Grid are proposing. Are we therefore looking at a proposal for a huge industrial site in the countryside that will grow by leaps and bounds in future? The proposals are already there from UKPN that show the answer is YES. Read them here.

  1. UGLY: such a substation comprises huge asymmetric towers up to 50 metres tall, gantries 15 metres tall, transformers in buildings the size of a house, switchgear in buildings the size of a factory. All of this is proposed for a field set on some of the highest ground in north Essex. Stand in the middle of the proposed site and the horizon is defined by the village of Alpheton, many miles away in Suffolk. Build such a monstrosity here and it will dominate the landscape for miles around, decimating the natural beauty that is an asset for the rural tourism industry.  The ugliness would not be restricted to one site. The substation would be connected to the existing distribution grid by a short cable terminated with yet another Sealing End Compound, probably in an open field in full view from the local main road. And it would not just be visually ugly: it would hum. The transformers would vibrate and drive the clay ground on which they would sit and this could in turn propagate out and cause the homes in the surrounding villages and hamlets to hum. 

  1. UNNECESSARY: It is absolutely not the case that a new substation is essential. New transformers (if needed) could be installed in one of National Grid's existing substations - the nearest being not far away at Braintree. A technically feasible and economically sensible underground cable could then connect from Braintree to the distribution grid at a point near Castle Heddingham.  This would also make it possible to rid essentially lovely villages such as Wickham St Paul of the pylons that blight them. Stour Valley Underground have put such strategies to UKPN and National Grid. Their response has been to exaggerate the costs and land take for such solutions. But SVU have refuted this with solid evidence from the utility companies that actually carry this work out for NG and UKPN. Even the Energy Ministries consultants KEMA have stated that NG have inflated costs on this project. Put simply, a non substation solution is affordable, economic and from a technical standpoint, highly do-able.

  1. INAPPROPRIATE: Our landscape is a vastly valuable asset for our local economy - now, and even more so in future. As you may have read in the national papers, our recent  revelations of the natural beauty and related cultural significance of the Stour Valley landscape has lead to proposals from National Grid to make the appropriate and economically sound investment needed to underground their proposed connection in the Stour Valley and elsewhere. It flies in the face of common sense to then blight the gateway to this landscape area with a vast industrial site that will be visible right across this outstandingly important heritage countryside. Research shows that the people of this country are willing to pay to avoid such blighting in high value landscapes. Any cost difference between a new substation and the environmentally responsible underground connection solution we propose is small when set against the total project costs.

National Grid’s Press Release

In their Press Release of 11th February 2013 that announces their substation consultation, National Grid say:-

National Grid senior project manager, Brian Smethurst, said: “People have already told us that they would like the existing line to be taken down and a new substation would allow that to happen.  Listening to local people is very important to us and we are keen to hear views on our proposals.

We are afraid that the first assertion is very misleading. The public have not said please take some pylons down and replace them with bigger ones, then build a substation. That is what National Grid want. What people in their hundreds have actually said to National Grid is they want all of it to go UNDERGROUND! National Grid have proposed to remove the pylons and replace them with a substation simply to avoid having their proposals fall foul of the government's National Policy Statements on energy. 

Listening to local people however is precisely what National Grid should do. And local people will tell them that a substation is unacceptable and unnecessary. Even recent precedent shows National Grid that this proposal is unacceptable. A similar substation planning proposal for the Norfolk countryside was thrown out by two secretaries of state for planning reasons that are directly applicable here!

Supporting Evidence

Stour Valley Underground is always keen not just to deliver opinion on National Grid's proposals but also the solid evidence to back it up. From the very earliest days of the proposals to blight our landscapes with pylons we have provided through our website, the information the public need to go into National Grid's consultation events well informed and able to counter the assertions of the energy giant. And our website is ready and waiting to provide you with the information you need to gauge the ugliness a substation would bring to our countryside and the alternative solutions that would avoid this. It's all available right now. Visualise what a substation in the north Essex countryside would look like through our pictures of National Grid's existing site at Eaton Socon here and then read about the realistic alternatives here.


David Holland, Chair of Stour Valley Underground is calling on all members of the Suffolk - Essex border communities to tell National Grid their informed views on their proposals.  He said "we can all make a difference. Building on our communities success in having National Grid adopt an underground solution in the Stour Valley and better cable routing in North Essex, we can now go forward to press for better solutions than an ugly substation in valuable and beautiful countryside."

National Grid will be running consultation events in the area soon. 

The consultation events are being held on:

  1. Thursday 21 February 2013 Gestingthorpe Village Hall 2:00pm – 8:00pm

  2. Thursday 28 February 2013  Wickham St Paul Village Hall 2:00pm – 8:00pm

  3. Wednesday 6 March 2013  Castle Hedingham Memorial Hall 1.00pm – 6.30pm


The closing date for feedback on National Grid’s proposals will be 8 April.

The message from Stour Valley Underground is clear and simple:

A New Substation in North Essex is UNACCEPTABLE 

and National Grid should adopt the underground cable from Braintree alternative.


SVU Press Release

in response to National Grid’s announcement of consultation dates for their proposals to build a substation in north Essex

National Grid propose this

for Essex’s rural high ground