North Thanet MP calls for judicial review if National Grid’s Sea Link proposal is approved

KWT Emma Waller, KWT Paul Hadaway, Sir Roger Gale and Presenter Rob Smith

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has slammed National Grid’s Sea Link proposal saying the fight against it should be taken to judicial review.

The National Grid Sea Link project 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 plans on display at a drop-in event Photo Ruth Brackstone Bailey

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.

The cable is planned through the protected area of Margate Long Sands Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

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.

The proposals, first made public in 2022, have provoked a backlash with Kent Wildlife Trust launching a Rethink Sea Link campaign.

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

RSPB, Bird Wise East Kent, CPRE Kent and Save Minster Marshes have joined that campaign over fears the installation of an electricity cable between Kent and Suffolk will significantly impact wildlife at the internationally important Pegwell Bay Nature Reserve and surrounding wildlife sites such as Minster Marshes. The groups all say they support renewable energy, but not at the cost to wildlife. MP Sir Roger has added his support to the campaign.

Sir Roger has aired his views while speaking to presenter Rob Smith as part of Kent Wildlife Trust’s “Talk on the Wild Side” podcast, released  today (March 29). It was recorded when members of the trust’s group, calling on National Grid to “Rethink Sea Link” took their campaign to parliament earlier this month.

KWT Steve Weeks, Emma Waller, Rosie Parry-Thomson and Nina Jones

Speaking from Westminster, the MP said: “I think the prospect of dozens of acres of land being taken to build a converter station that is the size of at least two football pitches and 90ft high is quite appalling.

“On that landscape, it will stick out like a sore thumb. It will be absolutely hideous. The cables that flow from that up towards Canterbury will provide an additional wildlife hazard for birds, additional to the line of cables that’s already there and has already done damage. And it just is unthinkable to anybody with half an eye on the environment and half a care about nature.

“But it seems to me that they’re blundering ahead because they know best. Well, I’m sorry, they don’t know best. And our children and our grandchildren are going to pay the most terrible price for very short termism.”

National Grid says there are plans to mitigate the impacts on wildlife but campaigners say the multi-million-pound company has failed to mitigate previous developments at Pegwell Bay, causing damage to the salt marsh in 2018 when installing the Nemolink cable.

Protected Area Warden Nina Jones at Pegwell Bay

Sir Roger said other options, such as using land at Kingsnorth, have not been considered enough. He said: “They say they’ve looked at alternatives. Well, they may have looked at them, but they haven’t looked at them or studied them thoroughly, in my view.

“In this case, Kingsnorth is an obvious option. The Dutch offshore their infrastructure for projects such as this and do it very successfully. If the Dutch can do it, we can do it.”

The MP, who is the only parliamentary holder of the RSPCA’s Richard Martin award, has attempted to raise the matter with Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Claire Coutinho but says she refused to take his call.

KWT Emma Waller and Sir Roger Gale

He says the matter should be taken to judicial review if approved, adding: “We can stick a spoke in the front wheel of the national grid. I think we have to be prepared to take this, if necessary, to judicial review.  I think  National Grid has to understand that it will be held to account, every step of the way, and that we will fight this to the last ditch.

“In this case, almost literally, because if we don’t, we’re failing our future generations. We’re custodians. We don’t own this land. We’re caretakers. We have to preserve it for the future. And I don’t think that doing that and providing power to keep the lights on is incompatible.

“I’m sure it can be done, and we have to find the right way of doing it. Not the cheapest, nastiest way of doing it.”

Kent Wildlife Trust says areas including Pegwell and Sandwich reserve will be under threat

Rob Smith added: “I’ve been to Minster Marshes and Pegwell Bay to see the areas that would be affected by the Sealink project for myself, and the birdlife especially down there is incredible. The thought that it could be harmed by installing the new cables there is heartbreaking – especially as there do seem to be viable alternatives that would have far less impact on wildlife.”

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.”

Pegwell Photo Brian Whitehead

“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, commitments were reneged, and 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.”

David Mairs, of CPRE Kent, the countryside charity, said: “This project is about National Grid making money – end of story. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Richborough site has been selected simply because it is so close to Europe and facilitates it selling energy at substantial profit to our near-neighbours across the Channel.

“It’s a commercial world – we understand that – but surely we should be entitled to greater respect for our rural landscape and environment.”

Inside a converter station (image National Grid)

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.”

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.

For those interested in the full interview with Sir Roger, head on over to Kent Wildlife Trust’s website and download “Talk on the Wild Side.”

51 Comments

  1. Sir Roger Gale being ignored by the Tory Minister over objecting to a Development Consent Order! Perhaps he will begin to understand how it feels when a Tory minister chooses to ignore all expert advice and press on approving the freight hub DCO.

    • Was thinking exactly the same Cllr. I thought Gale was against judicial reviews as he was holding up his ridicules believe in an airport. If it wasnt for him backing the airport, this converter sub station could be built on the brown site that is manston.

      It seem abit rich that Gala wants to protect the wildlife etc on minster marshes which is great. Just a shame Gale doesn’t care about the health of the people of ramsgate living under a flight path.

      It seems Gale wasnt his cake and eat it. He supports are dirty polluting airport which will be flying near to minster marshes lol.

      Is it an april fool joke ?

      It’s common sense to build the converter and some station on manston. Its criminal to build it on the marshes.

      It’s also strange how beavers keep ending up at pegwell bay

      • Also what Gale is missing the point here that this huge converter station will be needed to run his and his mates airport. How much emerge will the airport need ?

    • Mr Green – a referendum on re opening of Airport would be best course of action. That will not happen unfortunately because local politicians would have no control over result!!!

        • Confused – look at Switzerland for democracy and referendums! Wether a project is loss making or not is not down to people. All these local elected councillor have little regard for a bigger picture. I despair for Thanet led by some of these idiots.

  2. Let the people of Thanet decide which developments consents should be given not some jumped up little councillors put into office by a couple of dozen votes
    Local referendums are the way to go.

    • No councillors in Thanet are making any decisions in respect of the Development Consent Orders. The decisions are made by the government.

  3. The serious blot on our landscape is certainly bad. What seems to be missing in the debate is the danger from battery fires.
    World wide there are very many incidents, recently in Liverpool.
    Lithium battery fires don’t need oxygen to burn so the only option is cooling and containing. You have to let the fire burn itself out while trying to stop the hundreds of adjacent batteries overheating to cause more fires and explosions.
    The marshes plan is for a fire suppression system that Liverpool used. The Investigation concluded even if it had been activated it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome. Also, quite relevant, the manufacturers (3M) are withdrawing this system in 2025, probably because its a PFAS, forever chemical!
    The site is unstaffed so fire fighters have to wait for power to be shut off before they can enter. Liverpool’s site had 24hr monitoring but the centre was in Denmark! And they didn’t have the ability to operate the fire suppression system remotely anyway.
    Once in fire fighters will squirt thousands of litres of water on the fire. But the fire water will be contaminated with heavy metals and toxic chemicals running into the ground water and Stour – bye bye ecosystem.
    From much smaller facilities the fire and explosions cause toxic plumes. Prevailing winds put Cliffs End at serious risk, especially given how large this facility will be. If the wind is northerly, well if you live in Sandwich, best invest in a haz suit and gas mask as you’re a mere 4km from the site.
    If we get a larger fire our, mainly, southerly winds, might take the plume up to Westgate on Sea or, god forbid, Margate!
    The project is being rushed and I wonder if it’s because government regulations are planned? Sir Roger should know because a fellow MP had a Ten Minute Bill recently that set this out.
    We shouldn’t need a judicial review. Current legislation, if properly enforced, would prohibit this project and relocate if it complied with safety duties. Sir Rog might also wonder why the various regulators aren’t regulating?

      • When Kent Wildlife trust have cut down thousands of trees and spent over a million pounds on fencing , shut down many ancient rights of way, for 3 bison , I don’t think they have a leg to stand on, when complaining about what is essentially a green project.

          • Yes.
            A landowner can close a “right of way” as long as there is a similar facility of equivalent accessibility available “near by”.
            So, if a landowner intends to close a byeway from A to B by X, that’s fine, as long as there’s a byeway standard route between A and B via Y, for example.

          • Yes and no. It has to have an “equal worth”. Ramblers Association have successfully fought many landowners and councils who think it’s OK to remove a scenic path and put it behind buildings or high fences.

  4. Of gem is the regulator of The National Grid. Does the final say as to where the National Grid will build ( or not), rest with Ofgem?

  5. I am 75% Labour supporter but I’m no sheep I’m for Manston Airport so Im anti the present clique at TDC. I have no time for Craig McKinley but speak as I find Sir Roger Gale is one of the most honest genuine politician I’ve ever come across I’ve met him a few times over the years and he is in my opinion very sincere in what he does, he’s not my MP so I will not be voting for him.

  6. Roger Gale – And it just is unthinkable to anybody with half an eye on the environment and half a care about nature.

    Also Roger Gale – I am fully behind a new cargo airport at Manston.

    I know he’s getting on a bit but he seems a little confused.

  7. Electricity generated offshore was always going to have to come ashore to connect to the grid. Any proposed location will be unacceptable to someone. This seems as good a place as any other. Green can only be Green up to a certain point. There will always have to be compromises.
    Or the Wind Farm could always be shut down until a way is found to transfer the power by Bluetooth.

  8. oh no not another JR the isle does not want JR’s its such a lovely place to live without JR’s (often free for them/crowd people not cash strapped-yet)
    Our country needs electric more now than 5 years ago. Why are there so many nimby’s objecting. Have they got shares in candle factory or wind up radios?
    When its proper windy why do the offshore turbines reduce electric production ? thank’s there are still coal power stations.
    Not posting links but there is as there is always a site that does code/data/games. This one is from kate morley has a national grid live page which shows where we get our leccy from and where we export it to.
    iamkate dot com
    Hopefully i havent broken forum rules on this event. Ta all happy easter.

  9. Judicial review, judicial review, judicial review.
    Will anything actually happen in Thanet so it can prosper?
    Or just build more and more luxury housing for the rich DFL so the whole infrastructure explodes or collapses?

  10. I seem to recall that certain eminent commentators on this site inveighed against judicial reviews,told us that they would all fail, and that a local council would face financial sanctions from it’s auditors,the local government ombudsman and central government, none of which turned out to be true. Now we have a local MP encouraging a judicial review.JRs are expensive and not always satisfactory means of redress.
    The courts may not be the best venue to decide on bio diversity.
    I support the electrification of the economy but not at any price.We must also take into account that the National Grid is not a public body,and has its own financial interests.
    Pink is being her usual unhelpful self, and I would say again to her, if you don’t want to be made fun of, stop barking at others.

  11. Sometimes you are so unaware.Just think before tapping the keyboard.Obsessed no,just pointing out that silly little remarks and personal asides, waste your time and that of others.No one takes you seriously because you say silly things.

  12. Where were all these wildlife supporters when they dug up and still digging up trees and bushes and concreting over good fertile land from Westwood to lord of the manor traffic lights also all the trees in poor hole lane and surrounding areas at manston. I would be amazed if any wildlife have survived all this destruction in Thanet

  13. But he’s complaining to the lord chancellor about Judicial Reviews. Perhaps he could start up a crowdfunding page. I’m sure Jenny Dawes would be happy to give him a few tips.

  14. Just get on with it & build the thing. I doubt it will be anything like some people make out, its become a pet hate for some luddites like 5G & vaccines.

    • It’s pretty easy to make out what it’s going to be like: just look at the developer’s plans and graphics.
      There’s no doubt that we need it. But the question is: should it be built on or bear the ecologically sensitive marsh lands, or could it be built nearby on a suitable brownfield site?

      • Yes Andrew, that is a key point. It could be on a different site, some countries even put these facilities off-shore.
        A JR should not be necessary if regulators (eg Environment Agency, Health & Safety Executive, Ofgen, etc) actually regulated according to current legal standards they would prohibit the project in its present form and location.
        Sir Rog should be demanding action from them rather than this vapid electioneering greenwash. Mackinlay, if he was well enough, should be involved and, if he isn’t, his team should be.
        No one is talking about worse case scenarios which is criminal complacent arogance in the extreme.
        Look at a map, consider investigations into recent lithium battery store fires and it’s obvious which population centres are at risk from highly toxic plumes.
        These fires cannot be put out! They have to burn out. Fire & Rescue services across the UK are very concerned – read what they have to say.

          • The issue is not one of the relative safety of various methods of generating or distributing electrical power.
            Rather, what’s being discussed is how appropriate it is to build a converter station at this location.

          • Peter, what do you mean “safer”.
            Andrew has said the issue is about the projects in the article, not which method of energy generation is safest/best.
            So, I wonder, given your comments, are you looking for an opportunity to mock or employ sarcasm?
            If not you might research the issue yourself.

          • I’ll take the discussion in whichever direction I want, thank you very much… just as you’re more than welcome to ignore my perfectly polite question.

            Hope you’re both having a lovely holiday weekend. I highly recommend the Broadstairs Food Fstival, just got back from it.

  15. Re arrange these words windy, black pot and kettle, absolute hypocrite. Still we should expect more of this, it is election year and any headline will try do.

  16. Roger Gale:
    – I dont want airport expansion in London as it would harm the health of my grandchild.

    Also Roger Gale:
    – I want a cargo airport in Ramsgate as the harm in health for the children of Ramsgate (as documented by experts from developers, Public Health, and independent reports) is worth it.

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