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Wind farm cable routes which would carve up countryside to be reviewed

PUBLISHED: 21:40 06 November 2019 | UPDATED: 21:40 06 November 2019

Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm, off the Norfolk coast, has been at the centre of offshore energy growth. Picture: Ian Burt

Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm, off the Norfolk coast, has been at the centre of offshore energy growth. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

The energy secretary has agreed to review plans which could see miles of countryside carved up to accommodate offshore wind farms.

Mid Norfolk parliamentary candidate George Freeman has long campaigned for Mid Norfolk parliamentary candidate George Freeman has long campaigned for "sustatinable alternatives" to cable corridors. Picture: Ian Burt

Andrea Leadsom, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, will re-assess plans for mass cabling and substation infrastructure across Norfolk and Suffolk.

Confirmation of the review follows months of campaigning from residents, environmental groups and MPs.

Last month, Norwegian energy firm Equinor's proposed routes for 60km-long cable trenches connecting 61 new turbines off the Norfolk coast to the National Grid were revealed.

Those in opposition have instead suggested an offshore ring main (ORM), allowing wind farms to connect at the coast rather than via cable corridors.

Map showing the area being looked at for cable corridors for the expansion to Dudgeon and Sheringham Shoal wind farms. Picture: Equinor/Royal HaskoningDHVMap showing the area being looked at for cable corridors for the expansion to Dudgeon and Sheringham Shoal wind farms. Picture: Equinor/Royal HaskoningDHV

But Equinor stated in response that an ORM was "not an option at this time" due to the project's timeline.

Now Mrs Leadsom has pledged to listen to calls for what Mr Freeman has called a "more sustainable strategy".

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"Our area is set to become the world's biggest cluster of renewable offshore wind power," said Freeman.

Energy secretary Andrea Leadsom has agreed to review plans for cable trenches across Norfolk and Suffolk. Picture: PA ImagesEnergy secretary Andrea Leadsom has agreed to review plans for cable trenches across Norfolk and Suffolk. Picture: PA Images

"Whilst that it is good news for climate change, the lack of a proper joined-up plan for the onshore connection cabling is a disaster.

"The current plan will see each wind farm having its own cabling to multiple power stations - each the size of Wembley stadium - ruining the Suffolk and Norfolk coastal wetlands.

"We need an offshore ring main and I'm delighted Andrea Leadsom has agreed to look at it all again."

While Equinor looks to build new turbines at Dudgeon wind farm - 30km from Cromer - and Sheringham Shoal, fellow energy companies Vattenfall and Orsted are pushing ahead with plans for three more offshore wind farms requiring two more cable trenches.

Necton Substations Action Group has been campaigning for an offshore ring main. Picture: ArchantNecton Substations Action Group has been campaigning for an offshore ring main. Picture: Archant

Despite a seemingly positive step forward, Jenny Smedley, from Necton Substations Action Group which has been campaigning against the corridors, said further clarification was needed.

She said: "This seems very promising, but what we would now like is a definitive answer as to whether this review includes the wind farms which are currently in the application stages.

"This is important to the whole of Norfolk because any village, whether inland or on the coast, could be affected by cable corridors and the resulting impacts."

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