A planning application for a new substation in Biggleswade has caused shockwaves among local councillors.
UK Power Networks has submitted a proposal to Central Bedfordshire Council to build on land north of Dunton Lane, including the construction of a new access road, landscaping bunds and ancillary works.
It's said that the substation will help to meet "increasing demand for electricity from residents and local businesses", and allow communities to "transition towards a low carbon economy".
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But the proposal has caused sparks to fly, as Chronicle country councillors have voiced concerns - including worries about its environmental impact.
Central Bedfordshire Councillor Dr Hayley Whitaker, who represents Biggleswade South, said: "It's disappointing to see key details missing from this application such as the detailed ecological impact statement or any drawings to indicate the impact on the rural setting of Dunton Lane.
"I look forward to seeing these concerns addressed and residents given the full information to comment upon."
The proposals include two new compounds: a National Grid site (Biggleswade 400kV Substation) and a UK Power Networks site (Biggleswade East Grid).
These will draw electrical power from the existing high voltage overhead power lines that run over the site north of Dunton Lane, and then transform that power down to a lower voltage to power homes and local businesses.
The Planning Statement reads: "CBC, in conjunction with UK Power Networks as the DNO, identified that power was the single most important issue constraining the future development of Biggleswade and its surrounding areas. It was identified that the cost of providing the required additional capacity was prohibitive to the viability of future developments.
"As a result, CBC sought funding from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund for the development of a substation which would provide an additional 80MW of electricity to the area."
It continued: "The Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) is a government capital grant programme of up to £2.3 billion, for new physical infrastructure which will unlock sites in the areas of greatest housing demand and help to deliver up to 100,000 new homes in England."
However, voicing his concerns about further development in the area, Central Bedfordshire Councillor Adam Zerny, who represents Potton, said: “I am concerned this substation is to be used as a justification for large scale house building in the fields between Biggleswade and Sutton and Dunton.
"There needs to be a proper plan for the whole area rather than doing it bit by bit.”
The application for the new electricity substation was submitted after a series of public information events.
The target date for a decision is March 7, 2022.
Geraint Hancock, UK Power Network’s Biggleswade Substation project lead, said: “We’d like to thank everyone who has spent time meeting with us and providing feedback. We’ll be continuing to listen to feedback through the planning process and working with the community to see this important infrastructure project delivered.
“The Biggleswade Substation project will increase power capacity to meet growing electricity demand that is coming onto the network as we shift to clean energy to charge our electric vehicles, heat our homes and power local industry.”
Councillor Kevin Collins, Executive Member for Planning and Regeneration, added: “This is a significant investment for the Biggleswade area. Our residents have an important role to play, and I’d encourage everyone to participate in the statutory consultation process which will shortly be run by Central Bedfordshire Council.”
Geraint Hancock, project manager for UK Power Networks, told the Chronicle: “The substation proposal is designed to meet a forecasted growth in demand of 80MW to support the council’s development plans for the area.
“We have undertaken a series of detailed environmental assessments to help us fully understand the potential impacts of the proposed development and we have submitted a detailed ecological impact assessment which is now online that gives detail of a biodiversity net gain that significantly exceeds the 10% minimum requirement.
“We have received positive feedback from the public on our proposed ecological mitigation measures and continue to be in close contact with local councillors through this application process.”
To view the application, visit Central Bedfordshire Council's online planning portal, and search for code CB/21/05161/FULL.