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‘Tick-box approach’ accusations over consultation on Norfolk windfarm project

PUBLISHED: 21:31 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 21:49 06 February 2019

Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project promises to be one of the largest in the world. Picture: Vattenfall

Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project promises to be one of the largest in the world. Picture: Vattenfall

© Ben Barden Photography Ltd.

An MP, residents, and business owners aired their frustrations over plans to build a huge substation in a Norfolk village as part of a major wind farm scheme.

George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk cancelled a parliamentary debate on the issue so he could give his views on the Norfolk Vanguard project at an open hearing held by the Planning Inspectorate in Norwich on Wednesday evening.

The discussion was on plans to build a wind farm 50km east of the coast at Happisburgh, with cables coming on shore and 60km of trenches being dug to connect them to the National Grid.

It would also require a substation, which was described as “the size of Wembley Stadium” in the village of Necton.

But Mr Freeman said there was mounting concern from MPs across East Anglia on how the consultation for the plans had been carried out, and he had not been invited to take part in any discussions surrounding the plans.

He said: “It’s simply not fair that the residents of Norfolk, who are subsidising this multi-billion pound development offshore, are treated with contempt.”

Mr Freeman also claimed Vattenfall, the company behind the Vanguard project, were taking a “tick-box approach”.

Referencing the location of substation at Necton, he said: “We’re looking at something the size of Wembley Stadium.

“I’ve got here a thousand signatures who tell you it’s an extraordinary place to have decided to put the substation.”

Mr Freeman, and many of the speakers, said they were supportive of the offshore wind farms in general, but objected to the way consultations had been carried out.

John Houghton, from Womble Bond Dickinson LLP representing Vattenfall, said: “This is by no means a tick box exercise. A number of concessions were made significantly or in part due to the consultation.”

He also said the substation position was subject to public consultation, and added: “To suggest that was a tick box exercise simply misrepresents the process that was carried out.”

Wednesday’s meeting only concerned the Vanguard plans, but Vattenfall also wants to build another windfarm, Boreas, in the same location, while another development, Hornsea Three, is planned for 120km north of the Norfolk coast by Danish energy firm Orsted.

Cables from Hornsea Three would come ashore at Weybourne.

Wednesday’s meeting also heard from members of the No to Relay Stations campaign group, parish councillors, and residents.

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