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Pylons ‘threat to water security and woodland’

Landowners and utility company line up to fight proposals

PLANS by the National Grid to erect a line of 50m tall pylons across the east Kent countryside have attracted a chorus of protest from residents, the district’s MP and South East Water. Kirsty Morris, who bought two acres of the ancient Kemberland woods, in Broad Oak, alongside family and friends, said the route proposed by the National Grid from Richborough to Canterbury would cut a 40m wide corridor through the forest. She said:

“We have taken our concerns to the National Grid and not had any reply yet. At a meeting where we submitted them we were told there were other routes they could take that wouldn’t go through Kemberland, but this was the cheapest way. We don’t think money should come into it where 17th century woodland is concerned. There’s only two per cent of our ancient woodland left in the UK and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

Petition

A petition set up by Kirsty on 38degrees.org.uk calling for the woodlands to be saved has drawn more than 1,800 signatures in its first week online. Kirsty is far from the only person expressing concerns in the last week before the final consultation ends. South East Water says the planned route for the pylons, known as the Richborough Connection, goes right over the Broad Oak site they’ve earmarked for a new reservoir to boost Kent’s water supply. A spokesman for the company said:

“South East Water made it clear to National Grid from the very earliest opportunity that it has real concerns that the alignment of pylons through the proposed route corridor could put at risk the company’s ability to deliver a reservoir at Broad Oak. South East Water has made a number of suggestions to National Grid which would ensure the future delivery of both essential utility projects, unfortunately these have not been fully reflected in the pre-consultation documentation.”

In the past, South East Water has called the Broad Oak reservoir an essential component of their plans “to provide water to where it matters most” in future years. According to South East Water, there are expected to be an extra two million people living in Kent, with three per cent less water to drink between them, by 2040. The criticism joins those of Broad Oak residents and the local MP Julian Brazier, who pointed out South East Water’s concerns. He said:

“We have a few options in providing energy but South East Water can only build their reservoir on one location. I want to see both projects delivered successfully to ensure the future water and electricity needs of Canterbury and Whitstable are met. At present however, this isn’t happening. I will continue to press National Grid on this to get a better deal.”

For its part National Grid says the proposals are essential to match the energy needs of the whole country. The Richborough Connection is a way of connecting an energy supply from mainland Europe to the rest of the UK network via a chain of 50m tall energy pylons from Richborough, near Sandwich, to Canterbury. National Grid project manager Steve Self said:

“This is a big project; we need these pylons to transport electricity from Belgium to the rest of the National Grid network; securing this plan would safeguard our energy needs into the 2020s and beyond. It is vital to the UK.”

All opposition letters and messages must be sent in to the National Grid by March 26.

Rich habitat

SOME of the animals that live in the woodlands which are being threatened by the Richborough pylons:

  • Great crested newt: Also known as the “warty newts, this reptile can measure up to 16 centimetres long. Since the 1940s, the newt has seen its population fail, thanks to the destruction of its habitat (wild forests, ponds and pools).
  • Dormouse: The dormouse is not a species in desperate need of conservation, but it is well-suited to habitats like the Kemberland, and quieter parts of the countryside, due to its long periods of hibernation, and tiny size (some are as small as 6cm long).
  • Nightingale: The numbers of this much-loved bird have been in free-fall in the UK. While the European population remains strong, it is thought that the UK population fell by 53 per cent between 1995 and 2008. According to the owners of the woodlands, nightingales spend part of their time each year at Kemberland.
  • Bats: Not a typically pretty endangered species, but the fact that the three species of bat in the woodland are protected by national and international legislation Indicates the site’s importance. According to Kirsty, the bats are indigenous to the woods, and “cannot be rehomed”.

Herne Bay Times, March 25th 2015

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