Councillors across the political parties have voiced concerns over the National Grid Sea Link project which would mean 9 hectares of land taken up by an onshore converter station and sub-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.
At a council meeting last night [December 7] concerns over the impact on areas including wildlife, environment and flood risk were raised.
Council leader Rick Everitt proposed a motion, which councillors voted in favour of, to make a formal response to the National Grid consultation outlining major concerns.
The motion says: “Council acknowledges the considerable public concern over the impacts of National Grid’s Sealink project, which is currently the subject of a statutory consultation process. We share this concern, and wish to reassure residents that their views are heard and understood.
“We recognise the need to adapt the electricity transmission network in order to respond to rising demand and the move to sustainable generation methods in new locations. We welcome the extensive engagement by National Grid with both elected members and the communities in Thanet most affected.
“Council agrees that it does have major concerns regarding the proposed location on Minster Marshes; the scale of the converter building, as well as the effects of the associated infrastructure; the significant impact on protected wildlife and species habitat both during construction and afterwards; and the potential change to the character of the landscape.
“While this council is not a decision-maker in respect of this development, we commit to making and publishing a formal response to the current consultation that highlights these issues and our concerns about them.”
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.
Thanet Conservatives leader Reece Pugh said North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale was “engaging quite hard” with government ministers and National Grid to find not just an alternative site but also a better solution.
Cllr John Davis [Conservative] said: “This is one of the biggest issues, despite what people claim about other matters, this is one of the biggest issues and an extant threat that we have seen to the community in a long time.”
Cllr Davis said although there could be conflicted feelings over the need for a “more robust grid” the suspicion was that the project was already a “done deal.”
He cited the link between Germany and the Hoo Peninsula saying that site was a viable alternative, adding: “This marsh, when it’s lost it’s lost. It is one of the last wild areas in east Kent and it’s massively important to migrating birds.”
He highlighted the death of some 179 swans due to the pylons already at the marshes site and branded the plan as a potential “environmental disaster.”
Cllr Becky Wing [Green], who has been campaigning against the proposals, said the converter site would take up the space of “22 football pitches” and raised fears of a cumulative impact including flooding while fellow Green councillor Kevin Pressland said a completely different approach was needed by National Grid while Labour’s Kristian Bright simply branded the plans “a crime.”
Public consultation over the plans runs until December 18.
A campaign page Save Minster Marshes has been set up by George Cooper on facebook for those who want to fight the proposals.