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  6. Parliament urges delay in ratifying NPSs and more power line undergrounding

Parliament urges delay in ratifying NPSs and more power line undergrounding

Parliament has recommended that ministers should delay ratification of the new suite of energy National Policy Statements (NPSs), a key element of the new planning regime. MPs have also urged that the transmission NPS should take a tougher stance on the status of the ‘Holford Rules’ which help protect landscapes from transmission towers and overhead power lines.

The Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee argued that ratification of the NPSs should be held up while other planning reforms are clarified and the Government decides on electricity market reform (EMR).

The committee said that the NPSs “must be in harmony with the changes in the National planning framework and the EMR process. Ill-timing could create uncertainty rather than certainty for new energy infrastructure investment”.

That warning came in a report from the all-party committee which also highlighted fears of further uncertainty now that ministers will have the ultimate power to decide on projects from April next year when the Infrastructure Planning Commission is closed and largely replaced by a major infrastructure planning unit.

The MPs want the Government to publish the criteria against which the individual secretary of state would exercise his or her discretion.

On the issue of overhead lines, a significant source of concern in Suffolk and Somerset where National Grid has proposed major new projects, the committee’s report has said that “in some areas the situating of cables underground is necessary to reduce the visual impacts of energy networks infrastructure. These areas should include, but not be limited to, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding natural Beauty”.

At a recent National Symposium on future electricity networks organised by Suffolk County Council, protest groups, environmental campaigners, local councillors and planners argued the case that energy regulation and policy should encourage much greater use of underground and subsea transmission to safeguard landscapes.


Roger Milne

27 January 2011