‘There has to be a fair deal’ - MP Norman Lamb says Norfolk should see the benefits of wind farm infrastructure

Norman Lamb MP. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Norman Lamb MP. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

MP Norman Lamb said residents deserve a 'fair deal' if plans to build two wind farms off the north Norfolk coast, including one of the biggest in the world, are approved.

The impact of the offshore wind farms proposed by Vattenfall is likely to felt across the majority of North and Mid-Norfolk, with cabling potentially running from the coast, near Happisburgh, down to Necton, near Swaffham.

Mr Lamb said: 'Norfolk and North Norfolk in particular is a critical part of the country in terms of infrastructure and they often have the impact but not benefit, such as with broadband and mobile phone signal, rural areas lose out. There has to be a fair deal here.'

He chaired a meeting at Witton and Ridlington Village Hall last month and called the turn out 'extraordinary'.

A key point was the method of energy transmission used by Vattenfall. The first option is high voltage alternating current (HVAC), requiring relay stations built inland and a large amount of underground cables. The second option is high voltage direct current (HVDC), which does not require relay stations and involves fewer cables.

Mr Lamb said: 'I stress that I don't have expertise on the science of this but the residents are very concerned that there would be substantial industrial infrastructure in the middle of open countryside if they use the AC option.'

He added that if the DC option is possible and technology is available then there is a strong case for it to be used. 'I'm keen to press the company to pursue the DC option if it can be delivered,' he said.

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Ruari Lean, project manager for Vattenfall's Norfolk Vanguard Project said both options are viable and cost effective and noted a number of positives to the DC solution. But both require the construction of a large electrical substation and if the DC option is picked that substation would be larger and taller than for AC.

As a result DC appears to be a better solution for North Norfolk but would be problematic for Necton in Mid-Norfolk, where the larger substation would be built.

Vattenfall will resume public consultations in October and Mr Lamb will also hold further sessions as the project develops.

'It's a major national infrastructure project and the concerns of local people need to be considered,' he said.

How will Norfolk benefit according to Vattenfall?

Ruari Lean, project manager for Vattenfall's Norfolk Vanguard Project said: 'We are very much listening to the benefits and opportunities that people feel are important.

'Vattenfall has a good record elsewhere in the UK of working in partnership with local communities to meet those needs and maximise outcomes. What we have been told by Norfolk communities to date is that job creation and skills development are important.

'Its early days, but we have started to support this across the County and East Anglia, with local contracts already going to companies such as Norwich based Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Cefas based in Lowestoft.

'We are also looking longer term by developing a skills strategy, this will ensure that our vision for maximising local skills development and employment is appreciated by our partners and supply chain. We would be keen to work with Mr Lamb to secure these potentially significant benefits.'