Kent Wildlife Trust urges National Grid to ‘Rethink Sea Link’ over concerns of impact on nature

National Grid wants to build a converter station on these wetlands at Minster Photo Nik Mitchell

Kent Wildlife Trust is calling on National Grid to examine an alternative route for its Sea Link project which will include a  60,000 square metre (6 hectares) onshore converter station at Minster marshes in the Stour Valley.

The Sea Link project involves creating a subsea electricity cable between Suffolk and Kent which National Grid says will help deliver the UK’s energy security strategy and net zero targets.

The proposals outline a preferred route of 10km of onshore and 140km of undersea cables, together with potential landfall and converter station locations at Friston substation in Suffolk and at Richborough.

National Grid’s preferred route runs from a landfall in Pegwell Bay to a proposed converter station site and high voltage pylons over the land to the south of Minster.

Th converter station will be 26 metres high and have external equipment such as lightning protection and walkways. A new substation would be built adjacent to it.

Kent Wildlife Trust has launched a campaign calling on the National Grid to “Rethink Sea Link” and avoid the proposed route which causes the most environmental impact.

Conservationists are concerned the current route for a proposed electricity cable will cause disturbance to wildlife at the internationally important National Nature Reserve Pegwell Bay and surrounding nature sites.

Kent Wildlife Trust says it supports renewable energy solutions but is worried the plans are harmful to wildlife and will potentially involve trenching areas of Pegwell Bay, a wildlife-rich habitat with multiple protections.

The Trust says National Grid acknowledges the proposed route for Sea Link has numerous environmental constraints that will directly impact marine and terrestrial designated sites for nature conservation but says these impacts can be mitigated through careful design and trenchless techniques.

How the station and pylons might be positioned (Keith Ross)

Kent Wildlife Trusts Planning and Policy Officer, Emma Waller said: “We are hugely disappointed to see that nature is yet again not valued and are asking the National Grid to review the strategic alternative routes and their impacts on the environment to choose the least damaging route. In short, we want the National Grid to “Rethink Sea Link.”

“We have already experienced the impacts of trenching at Pegwell Bay, when in 2018, the National Grid, in partnership with Belgian Elia Group, installed the Nemo Link electricity cable.

“Like Sea Link, trenchless techniques were the preferred method of installation, however, open-cut trenching techniques were used, resulting in irreparable damage to the salt marsh and marine habitats. We are concerned that the mistakes of the past will be repeated.”

Protected Area Warden Nina Jones at Pegwell Bay

Sandwich and Pegwell Bay is a haven for wildlife, designated as internationally important and protected by UK law. The site is home to Kent’s largest population of seals. The Trust says the Sea Link plans have only involved a ‘desktop mammal survey’ and ecologists remain concerned the development will impact the seal colonies living along the shore.

The cable is planned through the protected area of Margate Long Sands Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which supports Annex I habitats which are protected under European Law. The development has the potential to cause habitat loss to Goodwin Sands which is in a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) and supports diverse epifauna such as Sabellaria Reefs, a priority habitat and blue mussel beds. The sandbanks are also important spawning and nursery grounds for species such as thornback rays.

Photo George Cooper

The ringed plover, turnstone, and red-throated diver have all been recorded at Pegwell Bay and the surrounding sites and are at risk of being displaced through disturbance. The ringed plover and turnstone are designated features for Thanet Coast and Sandwich Bay Special Protection Area (SPA)

The proposed route for overhead cables and converter and substation will directly impact Sandwich Bay and Hacklinge Marshes SSSI, Ash Level and South Richborough Pasture Local Wildlife Site (LWS) and Woods and Grassland Minster Marshes LWS.

Minster marshes Photo Nik Mitchell

The development would also result in the loss of 13.6ha from within Minster Marshes, an area with priority habitats and land which plays a vital role in supporting the species for which Thanet Coast and Sandwich Bay SPA has been designated. Significant numbers of golden plover have been recorded using the field where the new converter and substation are proposed.

Emma Waller added: “If nature lovers are concerned about this threat to wildlife, they have until the 18th of December to comment on the consultation and highlight their objections. People can also find out more by visiting our website and signing up to learn more about our campaigns.”

National Grid says it is necessary to carry out works to upgrade the network. The firm says: “We are at the initial development stage of our Sea Link project which seeks to reinforce and strengthen the network between Friston in Suffolk and Richborough in Kent to carry renewable and low carbon power to homes and businesses.

“We developed much of the existing network in East Anglia and Kent in the 1960s and it does not have sufficient capacity to carry future renewable and low carbon power that’s forecasted to connect to the network – from offshore wind, interconnectors and nuclear power.

“We need to upgrade the electricity network to carry this extra power.”

Timeline

The Sea Link project needs to obtain a development consent order (DCO) via an application to the Planning Inspectorate.

The Secretary of State is expected to make a decision in 2025 with construction then taking place, if granted, between 2026 and 2030.

Campaign

A campaign page Save Minster Marshes has been set up by George Cooper on facebook for those who want to fight the proposals.

Find Save Minster Marshes here

Sea Link documents available at:

Minster Library (4a Monkton Rd, Minster, Ramsgate CT12 4EA)

Monday 1pm–5pm, Tuesday and Sunday 9:30am–1:30pm, Thursday 12pm–5pm, Friday 10am–4pm

Sandwich Library (13 Market St, Sandwich CT13 9DA)

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9:30am–5pm, Saturday 9:30am–3pm

Ramsgate Library (Guildford Lawn, Ramsgate CT11 9AY)

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9:30am–5:30pm, Thursday 9:30am–4:30pm, Saturday 9:30am–3:30pm

Newington Library (Royal Harbour Academy, Stirling Way, Ramsgate CT12 6FA)

Monday and Thursday 9am–1pm and 2pm–5:30pm, Tuesday and Saturday 9am–1pm

Margate Library (Cecil Street, Margate, CT9 1RE)

Monday, Thursday and Friday 10am–5:30pm, Tuesday and Wednesday 10am–5pm, Saturday 10am–3:30pm

Thanet District Council (Cecil Street, Margate CT9 1AY)

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 8:45am–5pm

Find the National Grid plans on its website here and on the Planning Inspectorate site here

2 Comments

  1. When the Project Nemo cable was brought ashore, what lasting impacts did that have on the ecology and environment? The face that the Bay is rich in wild life suggests not much, if any.
    This current proposal anticipates the use of non-trenching techniques for the cable installation.
    My concern is for the huge converter station, which will occupy a vast swathe of Minster marshes.
    The thing could be located near by at the Manston site. With or without an operating airport, there is ample land to accommodate the converter and substations.

  2. I am sorry to read once again Nature has become second in place of meeting the costing of this project. We must take extremely care of our nature & environment as we must leave this legacy for our children & grandchildren ! We must use our brownfield sites which we have many in Thanet & not dig another trench we was used last time for cheapness.

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