HC Deb 16 November 1959 vol 613 cc784-5
18. Mr. Skeffington

asked the Minister of Power why, in approving the proposals of the Central Electriciy Generating Board for a 275 kV. overhead line from Northfleet to Canterbury, he rejected the suggestion that the line should be carried instead through Chatham Dockyard; what is the length of the route through the dockyard, compared with the length of the approved route and of the northern diversion; and whether he will give detailed figures of cost and construction time for the dockyard route, assuming a line crossing over the entrance to the dockyard basins and a line passing to the south of the dockyard basins.

Mr. Wood

An overhead line by the approved southern route of 41 miles will take about twelve months to construct and will cost just under £1 million. Practicable northern alternatives, although over two miles shorter, would take two or three times as long to construct and would cost at least £500,000 more. My predecessor was satisfied, after consulting the Admiralty, that no practicable route in or near the dockyard could avoid these difficulties.

Mr. Skeffington

Is the Minister aware that there is very considerable apprehension about this decision? Does he recall that there was an inquiry held by an inspector from his Department and an inspector from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and that the two inspectors violently disagreed as to the merits of the proposed line? Is he not aware that seven bodies, including the Nature Conservancy and the county council, are opposed to this proposed line as it would spoil the last remaining beauty spot on the North Downs, not only from the scenic point of view, but also from the point of view of certain groups of wildfowl—I will not particularise them, because, if they are known, they may disappear in any event—and, in view of this very widespread dissatisfaction, will he consider looking into the matter again?

Mr. Wood

I do not think I can give the hon. Gentleman any promise that I can reconsider the decision which my predecessor came to. He came to it in the light, as the hon. Gentleman says, of those two reports, but he made his decision after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and he reached it not only on the question of the relative damage to beauty in the areas of the various routes, but also on considering that both northern routes, the first one and the modified one through the dockyard, would have cost a great deal more and would have taken very much longer. Therefore, I am afraid I cannot give the undertaking the hon. Gentleman would like.