What are you proposing for the new connection?
We’ve chosen a tunnel as the best way to go under the Menai Strait and identified areas where we could put the equipment we need to change from overhead to underground. At around 4km long, the tunnel is beyond the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and means our equipment is further back from the coast and further away from communities.
The route for the new overhead line is close to the existing line. This means we can take a direct route, keeping away from larger communities and avoiding putting pylons into new areas. We’ve also chosen a similar lattice pylon to the existing line. We think this is the best option to reduce visual effects as it won’t introduce contrasting shapes into the landscape.
We think our proposals are the best way to keep effects on the landscape, tourism, communities, cultural heritage and the wider environment as low as we can, while also providing a connection that offers value for bill payers.
How have you considered the impact your work could have on tourism?
We fully recognise how important tourism is to the region and the economy, and it’s something we’ve considered at every stage of our work.
By keeping the second line close to the existing line, we stay away from the coast which is especially popular with tourists. It also avoids the largest towns and villages, heritage sites and landscapes that attract visitors.
At the Menai Strait, our choice of a tunnel extends inland away from the coastal area. This means we are outside the AONB and away from Plas Newydd and the Vaynol Estate – all areas that are popular with visitors.
This found that 93 percent of people felt there had been no negative impact on their business as a result of new infrastructure, and 83 percent of people felt there had been no impact on the local area as a result of new infrastructure.
We’re carrying out a local, similar study in North Wales to inform our ongoing assessments, together with further evaluation of potential effects on Anglesey. This will be considered in our plans and included in the Environmental Statement that will accompany our application for consent.
It’s important to note however that tourism is only one of many factors we consider and our job is to find a proposal that best balances the effects on all of them. For example, property, landscape, heritage, ecology and technical needs (among others) must all be considered in balance.
Why do you need a second connection, can’t you use the existing line?
Wylfa Newydd will generate nearly three times as much power as the existing Magnox power station.
To carry all that power securely to the homes and businesses that need it, we need to use the existing line and build a second connection. Wylfa Newydd will use both lines.
Why can’t you put the whole connection underground?
We know many people would prefer us to put the whole connection underground and we have looked carefully at this option.
We understand the visual and landscape benefits of putting the whole connection underground, but there are wider factors that need careful thought.
Undergrounding can introduce additional technical requirements as underground cables behave differently to overhead lines. The construction of open trenches or a tunnel for underground cables is likely to be more disruptive than the installation of overhead lines, which may result in significant environmental or socio-economic effects. It is also millions of pounds more expensive than overhead lines, which could lead to higher bills for electricity consumers.
Carefully considering costs is a duty placed on us by our regulator Ofgem and we have to put forward proposals that are value for money for bill payers. When the cost differences between underground and overhead connections are taken into account across all of the projects we’re working on in the UK, the cost to bill payers would be billions of pounds more if we were to put all connections underground.
We also have to consider the impacts of any unexpected repairs to our connections, for example damage caused by a third party or an exceptional fault on the line. If such an event occurs and the cables need to be excavated for repair this can take significantly longer to identify and fix for an underground cable when compared to an overhead line. This is something we have to think very carefully about because we have a duty to make sure that the electricity network is reliable at all times.
We typically use underground connections where there are no options to sensitively route an overhead line. To date in Anglesey, our assessments have led us to a tunnel 4km long, which we think reduces the potential effects of the connection around the Menai Strait and wider AONB landscape.
Why can’t you put the existing line at the Menai Strait in the same underground tunnel you are digging for the new one?
When a new electricity generator asks to connect our network we must develop that connection in line with a number of conditions that are set and regulated by the government. This includes providing a connection that meets the generator’s needs and that offers value for money for consumers, as the costs of the connection are passed on to all of us in our electricity bills. Because of these conditions, we can’t extend our project beyond the work that’s needed to connect the new energy generator. In North Wales, this means we’re not able to fund undergrounding of the existing line as part of the project as it’s not a necessary part of making the new connection for Wylfa Newydd.
But we know how valued the Menai Strait and Anglesey AONB are which is why we’ve committed to undergrounding the new connection here.
You’re putting cables underground in the Lake District. Why can’t you do the same on Anglesey and in Gwynedd?
We take the same approach to developing connections across all of our projects in the UK. This includes taking into account any special designations like National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). Most of our projects use a mix of technologies and this is the case in Anglesey and Cumbria.
As part of the North West Coast Connections project we’re proposing to put the connection underground as it passes through the Lake District National Park and beneath Morecombe Bay. We’re proposing to make the rest of the connection (around 119km) with overhead lines.
Similarly, we’re proposing an underground tunnel at the Menai Strait that extends out beyond the AONB.
You can read more about this, as well as our approach to putting cables underground, here.
Why aren’t you putting the current overhead line across the Menai Strait underground as part of the VIP project?
The VIP project has been led by its independent Stakeholder Advisory Group which includes representatives from organisations including the CPRW, Cadw, Natural Resources Wales, National Parks Wales, Natural England, National Trust and Visit Wales.
To decide which shortlisted locations were taken forward, each one went through a detailed review and analysis process. The line in Snowdonia, near Porthmadog was one of the projects taken forward because it falls within a National Park.
The Welsh Government has confirmed a third bridge is going ahead and construction could start by 2021. Can’t you put the connection on this?
We have been in discussions for some time with the Welsh Government to understand its plans for a third Menai Bridge. As these plans develop, we’ll continue to review our proposals. But until there is a final design with funding and permission confirmed for the third Menai Bridge project, we have to progress with our current proposals to connect Wylfa Newydd.
If more energy generation is proposed, will you need a third line of pylons?
There is nothing to suggest a third connection is needed.
We’re only able to consider energy generation for projects that have a connection agreement with us. If there is more energy generation in North Wales and more developers approach us for connection agreements, we would then need to look at the best way of connecting that energy to the electricity network. All the energy currently being proposed can be accommodated on the existing overhead line and the second connection that we are proposing.
What does it mean now that Orthios has a connection agreement with you?
In December 2015 Orthios completed the purchase of the Anglesey Aluminium works on Anglesey. The Orthios Eco Park will include a biomass power station and it now has a connection agreement with us to supply the power it will generate to the national electricity grid.
The biomass power plant will generate a much smaller amount of power than Wylfa Newydd so we’ll only need to do a small amount of work to accommodate this extra power. This will include some additional equipment at our Wylfa substation and some work on the existing 132kV overhead line from Holyhead to Wylfa.
How long will it take to build the connection?
In total, we think the construction stage would take four to five years, with additional time to undertake planting and other measures to help restore the land.
We are likely to be working on different sections along the route at different times so wouldn’t be working on the whole connection all of this time. Some sections we will start and finish earlier on in the construction process, while others we will start and finish towards the end. Given its complexity, the tunnel will take the longest to build and we will be working on this throughout the construction stage.
What roads will construction traffic use and how will you reduce the risk of congestion?
To provide access for vehicles, we’re proposing to use the A55, A5, and A5025 as these are the main roads which are closest to our work. We’ll also need to use suitable smaller rural roads off the main road network so we can get to the sites where we'll build our equipment.
Most of the equipment we need will be transported on lorries (HGVs). We’ll also need vans and cars to take workers to and from site. Some larger vehicles will be required to deliver specific materials, such as the cables for the tunnel, which come on large cable drums.
In order to identify suitable construction traffic routes, we’ve considered how we can best reduce effects on all road users, including local people and tourists.
We’re working closely with local county councils, North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency, Welsh Government and other relevant bodies to get their feedback on which routes would offer the best opportunities to reduce effects on the area.
What construction traffic will there be from your work at the Menai Strait?
To dig the tunnel, we will need some specialist equipment. Some of this equipment needed is large and heavy and may require larger vehicles to deliver it and take it away from the tunnel site. These vehicles would be larger and move much slower when compared to normal HGVs and for safety purposes may require escort vehicles. However, we would only need a small number of these.
To construct the tunnel, we will need to remove many thousands of tonnes of rock and soil. We will also need to deliver lots of materials to site such as aggregates and concrete linings. This will require a lot of HGV journeys to and from the tunnel site. However, the tunnel construction will take place over a number of years and the number of HGV journeys each day will be spread out.
To further help reduce any inconvenience for local road users, we would also look at a number of measures. These would include, for example, timing restrictions on journeys to avoid busy periods such as the morning and afternoon rush hours.
When do you pay compensation to people for the work you carry out?
We pay compensation wherever we cross land (overhead or underground) and we’re working closely with landowners across the project area to see where this is applicable. We’d encourage anyone with concerns about our proposals and their property to get in touch with us so we can better understand their circumstances and address their concerns where we can.
Is there compensation if there is an impact on house prices?
When we develop a new connection, we always try to avoid communities and individual properties as much as possible. We talk regularly with local residents so their comments can influence the design of the new connection and to help reduce any uncertainty. We also carry out regular reviews of our design to assess what effects there may be and if there are other options.
We’ve worked hard to do this in developing the second connection for Wylfa Newydd and feel the design we’ve put forward limits the number of properties close to our work. We only pay compensation if our equipment is placed on land or crosses it, but we know that people have concerns about the effect of our work on property. We’re committed to continuing to work with property owners to see if there are ways to further reduce any effects of our proposals. We’re always happy to hear from property owners and would encourage anyone with concerns regarding their property to talk to our team so your comments can be considered.
What happens next?
We’re now looking in detail at our proposals based on what you have told us in feedback and drawing on all of the relevant planning policy guidance. We’ll check all of the decisions we’ve made to date to see if there are ways we can reduce the effects of our work further.
When we’re happy the proposals are ready, we’ll prepare our application and the supporting documents. These will include a Consultation Report, to explain how we’ve taken your views into account; and an Environmental Statement, which will explain the likely environmental effects of our proposals.
We will then submit our application to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, via the Planning Inspectorate. We expect this to be autumn this year.
If Wylfa Newydd is delayed, would your project be delayed?
We’re only able to plan for the timescales that we have available. Horizon plans for Wylfa Newydd to start generating electricity by the mid 2020s so we have to be ready to provide a connection by then.
If for any reason Horizon’s timescales changed, we would need to review our own timescales in co-ordination with them.
What opportunities are there for careers with National Grid?
We want to inspire people in North Wales, and around the UK, to become the next generation of engineers. We also want to make a difference to the areas we work in by working closely with schools and youth groups.
Through school visits, our apprentice programme and educational resources we’re enabling thousands of people to realise their potential in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers that will benefit them, their communities, our economy and all of society. We’re already carryingout a range of activities with schools and community groups in North Wales.
Whether you’re looking for an apprenticeship, you’re a graduate or have already started your career; we’re always looking for talented individuals to join our team.You can find out more at careers.nationalgrid.com
Will your work create any jobs or opportunities for local businesses?
We’re part of Anglesey’s Energy Island Programme, which is aiming to put Anglesey at the forefront of low carbon energy development.
Isle of Anglesey County Council estimates that the programme could contribute £12 billion to the Anglesey and North Wales economy over the next 15 years. This could bring major economic, social and environmental gains for all of Anglesey and the wider North Wales region.
At National Grid, we work with some of the best companies, big and small, all around the UK, ensuring our work meets the high standards the country expects.
The scale of our projects means that there are great opportunities for local businesses while we’re working in an area.
Whether it’s subcontracting construction works, plant hire or accommodation and catering, our projects bring a positive boost to local economies. As well as benefits for businesses, this can also result in new job opportunities.