HL Deb 02 July 1956 vol 198 cc184-6

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government if they are aware of the proposed erection of the 275 K.V. Super Grid electricity line from Fleet in Hampshire to Drake-low in Nottinghamshire, which will be carried through some of the most beautiful of England's countryside, upon pylons 136 feet high, spaced 440 yards apart; under what powers this is being erected, and under what powers it can be stopped.]


My Lords, the Government have received no formal application in respect of this proposal. However I have been informed that the Central Electricity Authority are now drawing up their first plans for this part of the 275 kilovolt Grid, which is the new main transmission system designed to provide improved electrical connection between various parts of the country (particularly between North and South) and to provide bulk transmission of electricity from generating stations on the coalfields to parts of the country where coal is scarce or more costly. Before placing an electric line of this kind above ground, the Central Electricity Authority must apply to the Minister of Fuel and Power for his consent under Section 10 (b) of the Schedule to the Electric Lighting (Clauses) Act, 1899, and a Direction under Section 35 (1) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. The Minister is required under Section 21 of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, to give the local and planning authorities affected the opportunity to be heard should they so desire, and the views of bodies concerned with the preservation of amenities are, also taken into account. Where the Minister considers it advisable, he may cause a public inquiry to be held under Section 66 of the Electricity Act, 1947.


My Lords, naturally, I shall pay great attention to the detail which the noble Earl has given. May I ask whether he is aware that my information is that this project, which is the biggest that has ever been projected in this country, with pylons just thirty-six feet short of the height of Nelson's Monument, to stretch right from the South to the North of this country, has been agreed by various planning authorities who sit in secret. and if it had not been for the energy of the reporters of small local newspapers the public would not be alerted to how their amenities are going to be desecrated by a thing like this? I would ask the noble Earl whether he will represent to his right honourable friend the Minister that, when projects such as this which affect the lives and amenities of the people of this country are discussed, the planning authorities or those authorities who have planning powers should hold their meetings in public, so that the Press and public can know what is going on.


My Lords, I understand that when a request of this sort reaches my right honourable friend, there is already ample provision under the electricity supply legislation for the local hearing of objections, and, as I pointed out, where the Minister thinks it necessary, for a public inquiry to be held. As regards the meetings of the local planning committees, the noble Lord will realise that they arrange their own procedure. It is not the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Minister of Fuel, but I will see that these views are conveyed to the Minister of Housing and Local Government who is responsible in these circumstances.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for saying that, but I really must enter a protest. Although it is right, as he says, that in the last resort the Minister can demand a public inquiry, what is the good of having a public inquiry when the whole thing is a fait accompli and the pylons almost erected? I think there should be overall consultation before the project is started in the slightest degree. Then the amenities of this country are likely to receive a little more attention than they gel: at the present time.


My Lords, I shall certainly convey the views expressed by the noble Lord to my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl. I hope he will tell his right honourable friend that this is a matter of serious concern to the people in some of the most glorious spots in this country.


My Lords, might I ask whether the noble Earl will remember that there are other parts of the country which do not seem to receive the same attention from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, but which, nevertheless, have the same interest?

Back to