Powering ahead with electricity boost as Biggleswade substation is approved

Facility will provide an extra 80 megawatts of capacity for the local area

By Euan Duncan
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 2:28 pm

Biggleswade businesses are using "some fantastic sustainable measures" to combat a local power shortage until a new substation is operational, a meeting heard.

Eastern Power Networks plc's full plans for an electricity substation on 58 acres of agricultural land in Biggleswade were unanimously approved by Central Bedfordshire Council's development management committee yesterday (March 16).

The substation on land to the north of Dunton Lane would provide an extra 80 megawatts of electrical power capacity for the local area.

The Biggleswade substation plan.

A lower voltage after the transformation process will provide electricity to residential and commercial properties, according to a report to the committee.

Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker said: "We need more power in the town. We've an industrial area which is having to use generators because it doesn't have enough power.

"I have to say it's also making them think very creatively about how they obtain and use their power, and how they use their water. They're coming up with some fantastic sustainable measures to make do in the interim.

"Perhaps we should consider in the future limiting people's power so that they do more," she suggested. "I've been quite impressed with what businesses have done to get round some of the challenges.

"The big concern is the location. I understand it's CBC land which makes life much easier. There are questions about how this will marry up with the plans for up to 10,000 houses on that land to the east site and the garden village proposals.

"How can you have this amazing country park when you've got this huge substation literally on the horizon?" she asked. "No trees will block the size of that."

Councillor Whitaker took no further part in the proceedings.

Principal planning officer Stuart Robinson said: "The site is outside the settlement envelope and in open countryside between Dunton and Biggleswade.

"There are two substation compounds. One would serve National Grid, which owns the high voltage network. The other would be owned by UK Power Networks, which is the local distributor.

"This infrastructure won't itself create electricity. It would essentially source it from the network and increase capacity to supply electrical demand in the area moving forward.

"It has to be located close to overhead power lines, which are mainly over to the east side of the town.

"The loss of agricultural land is a negative impact. There would be harm to the character of the area. But other benefits are such it's considered acceptable in principle."

There was no objection Biggleswade Town Council. But it asked for a planning condition to require power to leave the substation underground, and for a footpath to be upgraded to a bridleway "to better connect the new garden village to Stratton Business Park".

UK Power Networks project manager Geraint Hancock said: "This project will support future investment in the Biggleswade area and be responsible for wider shifts to cleaner energy to charge electric vehicles, heat up homes and power our industry.

"The substation is the most appropriate way to provide Biggleswade with the power it needs to meet future demand."

Project agent and principal planner at Bidwells Rachel Woodman said: "As part of this investment, 10,500 trees will be planted to support significant improvements to biodiversity.

"We're retaining the footpath which runs across the site and creating a new one between the planned wildlife ponds and woodland.

"UK Power Networks has no intention of putting in any further overhead lines out of this site, at this time.

"A bridleway would encourage horses and potentially bikes which could be more damaging to that ecological benefit."