HC Deb 26 March 1998 vol 309 cc220-1W
Ms Dari Taylor

To ask the President of the Board of Trade when she will announce her decision on the North Yorkshire electricity line. [36992]

Mr. Battle

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has today brought to a conclusion the long running saga of the North Yorks line. She has granted consent to install a new 400 kV overhead electric line over much of the route between Lackenby and Shipton via Picton. However, consent has been refused for two short sections at Nunthorpe and near Newby. It will now be for the National Grid Company to consider undergrounding those stretches.

The decision announced today is in line with the recommendations of independent Inspectors appointed to consider the conflicting views and competing concerns raised by this development. In reaching her conclusion, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has carefully considered the views expressed by members of the local communities, hon. Members and all the material that has built up on the case. The full reasons for this decision are contained in the letter which has today been sent to NGC confirming the decision, copies of which have been placed in the Library and are also being sent to the local authorities and other interested parties. I cannot here repeat in full the contents of that very long letter but will outline some of the points which will be of particular interest to hon. Members.

In coming to her decision the Secretary of State is satisfied that the technical need for this line has been established. As well as the Inspectors' conclusions, and the opinions of interested parties, she has had regard to the views of the Director General of Electricity Supply on system planning standards and his concern that the current supply system in the North East of England does not meet the required standard and that a long term solution is required.

In reaching her decision the Secretary of State has considered the environmental impact of the proposed line. She recognises that the environment should have a high level of protection and that sufficient regard should be had to environmental effects in reaching her decision. She notes that NGC has reflected concerns expressed at the first inquiry by proposing diversions to the originally proposed route, that in two sections consent for overgrounding is being refused, and that as a result of the decision an existing line from Lackenby to Norton will be removed to the significant environmental benefit, as the Inspectors indicated, of the large number of people living close to that line, some 4,400 houses being within 200 metres of that existing line.

While a number of possible alternative routes for the line were explored during the course of consideration of this development, the Secretary of State notes that these were not without their own difficulties, and she is satisfied that in announcing consent today she has identified an acceptable way forward to meet the identified technical need.

This decision follows a lengthy history of applications first submitted in 1991, the two public inquiries in 1992 and 1995 into the proposed line and possible diversions along its route, other public inquiries and hearings into aspects of the line proposals, and continued representations since the last Inquiry closed in April 1995. All this has produced a fair amount of material which the new Administration has had to consider since coming into office.

As I have said, the full reasons for the Secretary of State's decision are set out in the letter which is being sent to NGC, copies of which I am placing in the Library of the House, along with copies of the Inspectors' report from the 1995 public inquiry. Copies of the Inspectors' report from the 1992 public inquiry are already available in the Library of the House.