Suffolk County Council is to approve a new pylons policy at its cabinet meeting next week - but in fact this has nothing to do with energy delivery and it's all about political posturing.

Which is just as well really - because if it really wanted to insert a pause into the decision-making process to get new power distribution networks completed by the mid 2030s it would be totally irresponsible!

A pretty comprehensive consultation process is already under way - and the councillors know that. 

A report isn't expected to be passed to the government until 2025 and a final decision isn't expected until the second half of 2026.

So there is plenty of time for all sides to make their case - after the current consultation round there will be more opportunities for individuals and organisations like the county council to comment.

What isn't needed is a delay - because if we don't have a robust electricity distribution network in place by the mid 2030s we will either face blackouts . . . or just have to rip up all our climate promises.

What this latest showboating appears to be about is the Conservative-controlled county council backing plans put forward by Conservative MPs and candidates at the next general election in an attempt to big themselves up to constituents who are concerned about pylons.

The MPs and government seem to be involved in a case of "Don't ask, Won't say" on the question of pylons.

It's quite clear from their previous comments that current ministers and civil servants accept National Grid's case that pylons are the only feasible and economic way of moving the power from the North Sea to other parts of the country - but don't want to make a big thing of it because it could upset their own MPs.

Opposition politicians, who don't have to worry about winning votes in rural constituencies, are upfront that for the greatest good for most people pylons are a necessary evil.

What this motion is about is allowing Tory candidates to tell people worried about pylons that the county council is on their side - and then allowing them to go hell for leather against the government when they're sitting on the opposition benches after their party loses the next general election!

East Anglian Daily Times: Richard Rout is Conservative candidate for the Waveney Valley as well as being cabinet member for the environment at Suffolk County Council.Richard Rout is Conservative candidate for the Waveney Valley as well as being cabinet member for the environment at Suffolk County Council. (Image: Richard Rout)

I'm sure no politicians will have missed the fact that this county council policy is being spearheaded by Richard Rout who also happens to be the Conservative candidate for the new Waveney Valley constituency!

I can't help feeling that many of the arguments being pushed forward for offshore or underground cables look rather like 21st century alchemy.

The "independent experts" employed by objectors to come up with figures to justify alternatives seem to use models that are so complex and unfathomable that they seem designed to bamboozle ordinary mortals (and backbench MPs).

They also seem to rely on self-perpetuating myths. The greatest is that the power from the North Sea has to be sent to London.

I've been told by engineers from National Grid and from planning experts working for local authorities that the real market for electricity being generated off East Anglia is the Midlands and North of England.

It therefore makes no sense to send it in the opposite direction to the Thames Estuary when it could just be sent across the country from the big National Grid station at Bramford.

I know that pylons are a major issue for some people - but as someone who was born and brought up near Sizewell, I see them as just another part of the skyline that is necessary for our modern lives.

And that seems to be a fairly common view - those who live in the direct line of proposed pylons are justifiably concerned and certainly would deserve some compensation if they are affected.

But most people do seem to accept that if we want cheap, clean electricity they are a necessity - and it seems that whichever of the main parties wins the next election will accept that.


The opinions expressed in this column are the personal views of Paul Geater and do not necessarily reflect views held by this newspaper, its sister publications or its owner and publisher Newsquest Media Group Ltd.