Cumbrian nuclear connection project on hold

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17 May 2017 7:41AM

CONTROVERSIAL plans for towering pylons to be constructed across areas of Cumbria's greenbelt have been put on hold

National Grid's North West Connections project is in a state of limbo amid continued uncertainty over the future of the planned Moorside nucler power station.

This news comes after NuGen - the company with plans for a power station at Moorside, near Sellafield - announced a review into the project.

Construction on this scheme - named North West Connections - was due to start in 2019 so that it was completed by 2024 to meet first generation by Moorside.

A spokeswoman for National Grid said: “Following NuGen’s announcement of a strategic review of their project, we will work with them to understand the implications for the timescales of their project.

"In line with NuGen’s review, we are pausing work on our connection. This will ensure we can align our plans both for the application for consent and the development of the infrastructure itself.”

Underground cables, 50 metre-high pylons and a tunnel under Morecambe Bay form part of the firm's plans, along with a project to remove overhead cables near Hadrian's Wall.

National Grid had been due to apply for planning permission for this development this year.

There have been some concerns over the proposed development, particularly in the Lake District.

Senior leaders at the Lake District National Park Authority consider the potential new structures could hinder a longstanding application to have the area listed as a Unesco World Heritage landscape.

The latest development was welcomed by campaign group Power Without Pylons.

Elaine Essery, of the group, said: "It’s helpful to have this formal announcement from National Grid in the light of continuing speculation about the fate of Moorside due to NuGen’s situation and the absence of a new investor to replace Toshiba.

"It’s possible that NuGen will make changes to the technology and design used for Moorside which could in turn have implications for National Grid’s North West Coast Connections project to connect the power station.

"Power Without Pylons hopes this pause will give National Grid more time to consider pylon-free alternatives - notably offshore options that people called for during the consultation period – for when the Moorside project might be in a position to progress.”

Parliamentary candidate John Woodcock has previously protested against the proposals.

He said: "It is good that our community's campaign will get more time to make the case against giant pylons in the Duddon valley - we will keep fighting to protect our beautiful natural landscape.

"But this postponement highlights the threat to 20,000 critically important energy jobs from the government's dithering.

"We have such potential to make our energy coast one of the gems of the UK economy, but this progress is put at risk by short-sighted policies and underinvestment.

"I have always fought to make our economy a national priority, but leaving Cumbria out of the northern powerhouse is a historic mistake that show the low value placed on the Cumbrian economy by this government."

It has, though, been supported by business.

Earlier this year it was announced that a total of 21 firms in Cumbria and Lancashire had applied to be part of the project’s supply chain.

NuGen announced the "strategic review" earlier this month following the news that troubled Japanese giant Toshiba is set to become its sole owner. Toshiba already has a 60 per cent stake in NuGen.

After its American subsidiary Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the other shareholder, French firm ENGIE, has used legal agreements to sell its stake to Toshiba.

The Japanese company is in serious financial difficulties, is forecast to make a multi-million pound loss and has "substantial doubt" about its ability to continue as a going concern.

Tom Samson, the chief executive of NuGen, has said he is "110 per cent Moorside will go ahead."

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