When we first looked into creating an on-line petition on behalf of concerned residents in Dumfries & Galloway against Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) Strategic Reinforcement Project the first question that came to mind was: what is the basis of the petition? In other words, what do we want to petition about?
That’s a tough question because it forces us to think deeply and by nature we just want to get on and enjoy life as best we can. Yes we don’t want these pylons but that can’t be the basis of a petition. The petition needs to be based on fact and sound argument rather than sentiment or feeling.
Fortunately, after meeting and talking with a group of people wiser than myself the ideas for the petition began to formulate and I want to briefly share them. If anyone has other ideas for consideration please send a comment as we plan to put the community petition on-line and linked to this site shortly after 12 July so as to give time for everyone to submit a copy before the deadline expires on the 24 July 2015. Here are the ideas:
1 There is something about the hurried nature of this proposal that is putting pressure on concerned residents to respond to SPEN. It is the beginning of the holiday season when people have other thoughts on their mind and yet we are being told that if our submissions miss the 24 July deadline they may not be considered. Furthermore, SPEN have no doubt been working hard in developing this project and their preferred corridor route for at least the past two years. If you doubt this look up the National Grid Electricity Ten Year Statement 2013 (on-line) and you will find a reference to the project. So to allow adequate time for residents to think, reflect, plan, come together in groups, seek advice, think though options and formulate individual and group responses for something that will undoubtedly blight the rest of their lives then a longer time period is required to allow meaningful dialogue to occur.
2 The way SPEN has put forward their proposed route and asked resident in and close to the corridor to comment is, as I have said in an earlier blog, invidious (unacceptable, unfair and likely to arouse resentment and anger in others – Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. 2008). I know this because it is exactly how I felt when I received their proposal document. It divides neighbours and communities. Instead, SPEN should have communicated their intentions at an early stage ahead of choosing a preferred route. That would have given each community a chance to come together, formulate a response and have their views and suggestions taken into account before arriving at a preferred option. SPEN has by-passed this vitally important step and thereby removed part of the democratic process.
3 Since SPEN announced this project The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, The Rt. Hon, Amber Rudd, MP has announce the end of public subsidy for on-shore wind – the very thing that is driving this project upgrade. Consequently, the 2600MW of on-shore generation that it is designed to accommodate will in all likelihood be no more than 1000MW. While we accept there is still a need to update some or all or the network because it is old this does not mean it needs to be upgraded beyond the realistic level of what is needed. A moratorium should be announced to allow SPEN to re-think the project requirements in light of the changed circumstances.
4 The last point concerns people and the environment. For a lesson on this SPEN should listen to the discussion about the proposed new runway at Heathrow Airport and hear what Boris Johnson had to say yesterday on the 10pm BBC News. Something like “In the 21st century we should not be treating people this way …,” and I agree with him. This will blight our lives forever. If the power from off-shore wind is required in England it should take a route that does not ruin our countryside, devalue our homes, cause us to feel unwell or at best, unhappy, and impact the tourist industry. It may cost more if the cost of these negative externalities are ignored but they should not be ignored they should be factored into the overall costs. The answer has to be a sub-sea link to a convenient location in England.