MPs debate National Grid plans

PUBLISHED: 11:30 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:36 25 May 2010

A HOUSE of Commons debate over National Grid's plans to install a 400,000 volt power line through North Somerset took place last night (Tues).

A HOUSE of Commons debate over National Grid’s plans to install a 400,000 volt power line through North Somerset took place last night (Tues).

Woodspring MP Dr Liam Fox called for the end of day adjournment debate for him to put forward views about National Grid’s plans.

It was also held to question the accountability of the Government’s Infrastructure Planning Committee (IPC), which will make a decision on the proposals.

During the debate he praised the actions of pressure groups and residents in his constituency for their efforts and dignity in opposing the plans put forward by National Grid, which would see 150ft pylons installed across the countryside.

He also criticised the way initial consultation has been carried out by the energy company, giving residents a choice of only two route corridors as the options for the line.

The environmental vandalism’ of corridor two, which would pass between Nailsea and Backwell, could be seen as leading to the false conclusion that corridor one, between Nailsea and Tickenham, should be chosen, according to Dr Fox.

He said: “It is about a consultation that is not really a consultation at all.

“The choice between being hanged and being beheaded does not boil down to much of a choice at all.

“The optioneering report shows that National Grid discarded a number of undersea options before the public consultation started.

“Despite asking for further information about the technical, environmental and cost considerations of placing the cables undersea, we still have not been given answers that explain clearly why two coastal points should be linked by overland power lines.

“For a decision of such importance and magnitude, we do not believe that National Grid has carried out as thorough and adequate a consultation with the public as it should have done.

“We will not stand by and watch our countryside ravaged by the 46-metre-high graffiti of that pylon scheme, or the property values of our constituents threatened.”

In March, all major infrastructure projects will be decided on by the IPC.

Dr Fox raised concerns about the accountability of the committee and how democratic the decision process is.

He also questioned how a judicial review into any decision made could be triggered.

He said: “No minister is responsible for these decisions.

“It is left to the unelected chairman of a quango to take the environmental, safety and economic decisions that will affect the well-being of our constituents. What sort of democracy do we live in?”

In response to the questioning, David Kidney, minister for the department of energy and climate change, explained that the IPC will be bound by national policy statements to ensure all issues are taken into account when considering National Grid’s plans.

He said: “The IPC will be accountable to parliament because it has to implement the national policy statements that have been implemented by Government.”

Mr Kidney also said he believed the IPC will be more accountable than the current system, which sees a Secretary of State making decisions on major infrastructure projects.

However, this was revered by Dr Fox and other MPs who disagreed that such accountability would occur.

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