'Major substation planned near Biggleswade schools' says councillor

CBC is working with the National Grid and UK Power Networks to create an electricity substation on Dunton Lane.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 1:30 pm

Central Bedfordshire Council has been slammed for "planning a major substation" that would be "too close" to new schools on Land East of Biggleswade

Councillor Adam Zerny said that Central Beds Council (CBC) is working with the National Grid and UK Power Networks to create an electricity substation on Dunton Lane on the edge of Biggleswade.

Meanwhile, the council recently launched its two-tier school consultation, with a proposal to move Edward Peake Middle School to a new site on land east of Biggleswade, while Dunton and Wrestlingworth Lower Schools may also be closed and moved to a new primary school on the same site.

CBC headquarters.

However, CBC stated that the size of the substation has not been confirmed and that the project is subject to planning approval and public consultation.

But Mr Zerny, a Central Bedfordshire and Potton Town Councillor, argued: "For the council to be planning a substation within a few hundred metres of a proposed school is one thing, but to run a public consultation on those new schools and not even tell the public about the substation seems remarkably poor judgement."

Cllr Zerny claims that at present Biggleswade only has "just about enough power" to satisfy existing demand and said that there are industrial units on Stratton Park buildings that are running on diesel generators because the council has "allowed so much development without sufficient local power source".

He claimed: "The proposed substation would be approximately 170x100 metres in size and would not look dissimilar to the one at Connah's Quay in Wales.

"The substation would create about 80 megawatts of power which would be enough for about an additional 40,000 people and should give some indication of quite how much expansion is planned for Biggleswade in the years to come.

"There is likely to be a public consultation later this year."

CBC has named the initiative the 'Biggleswade Substation', which aims to increase power supply and "support Central Bedfordshire Council’s investment in Biggleswade", stating that good homes, a broad range of local jobs, better transport facilities and outstanding schools "all rely on a robust, future-proofed power supply".

The website of the Biggleswade Substation project states: "To do this we need to build two compounds: A National Grid site (Biggleswade 400kv Substation) and a UK Power Networks site (Biggleswade East Grid). Together, these two compounds will draw electrical power from the existing Overhead Power Lines that run over the site, and then transform that power down to a lower voltage to power residential and commercial properties."

However, Central Bedfordshire Councillor Dr Hayley Whitaker, who represents Biggleswade, added: "While I recognise the need for improving the local power supply it’s worrying that Biggleswade will lose yet more green space to allow this substation to be built."

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesperson told the Chronicle: "The size of the substation has not been confirmed.

"The project, which is subject to planning approval and public consultation, is for a substation and not a power station and/or a power substation. No power would be generated; a substation draws down existing high-voltage power – produced by a power plant, wind farm etc. – and transforms it to a much lower voltage that can be used by residents and businesses.

"The substation is required for several reasons. It will support new homes, but it will also underpin the creation of new jobs and is essential for achieving the transition toward zero-carbon emissions by 2050 – we will all use more electricity in the future, whether charging our electric vehicles or hearing our homes."

Commenting on the school proposals, they added: “The current Schools for the Future consultation about changes to schools in Biggleswade and the surrounding area is about a proposal for schools to change to the primary/secondary model of education.

“As part of this there are proposals for a new secondary and a new primary school on land east of Biggleswade.

“The exact location of these schools has yet to be determined. Further detailed work will be required after the current consultation closes on September 28, including a full planning application process, but no decisions have been made yet.

“Any potential proposals for an electricity substation are separate to the Schools for the Future programme, but would also have to go through the similar rigorous consultation and planning processes, so that the local community can have their say. We are not at that stage yet.”

A UK Power Networks spokeswoman, said: "We are in the early stages of planning a new electricity substation (not a power station) with Central Bedfordshire Council for Biggleswade."

"All our substations meet the industry safety regulations and are based in the community to deliver power safely and reliably to homes and businesses."