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Progress for Nemo under-sea electricity project linking east Kent to Belgium

By Eleanor Perkins

Work on a major project to channel electricity under the sea between east Kent and Belgium is on track to finish in 2019.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay was updated on the construction progress of the Nemo Link interconnector at a meeting at the Royal Temple Yacht Club in Ramsgate, last Thursday.

The project - which will create the first electricity link between the UK and Belgium - received outline planning permission from Thanet and Dover District Councils in December 2013.

MP Craig Mackinlay at the latest Nemo Link event
MP Craig Mackinlay at the latest Nemo Link event

Mr Mackinlay was told that since then Nemo Link have been busy working on the construction of the UK converter station and electricity substation, as well as laying cables between the converter station site at Richborough and Pegwell Bay, through the country park.

During the next phase of the work Nemo Link will start the submarine cable installation, with the subsea electricity connection due to be operational in 2019.

The company claims it will help to ensure a safe, secure and affordable energy supply between the UK and the European network.

Survey and investigation works were undertaken to assess the safety of the cable route - ensuring it is clear of obstruction and will not impact upon any artefacts of archaeological importance.

The standard pylon that will be used in the Richborough Connection project
The standard pylon that will be used in the Richborough Connection project

This work uncovered a number of items of archaeological interest and unexploded ordinance that Nemo Link displayed information about, alongside their project update.

Mr Mackinlay said: “I was pleased to examine the presentation by the Nemo project, the electricity interconnector with capacity to bring in 1 GW (about a 60th of peak UK demand) of electricity from Belgium via a 95-mile long cable to be laid on the bed of the North Sea, landing UK-side at Richborough.

“Whilst I have little concerns about the connector itself, the effects of cable-laying and shoreside operations being minimal, I maintain my objections to National Grid’s unimaginative plans to then erect towering electricity pylons across the Kent countryside.”

Earlier this month, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark approved National Grid’s application for 60 pylons from Richborough to the sub-station in Broad Oak Road, Canterbury.

“Whilst I have little concerns about the connector itself, the effects of cable-laying and shoreside operations being minimal, I maintain my objections to National Grid’s unimaginative plans to then erect towering electricity pylons across the Kent countryside...” - Craig Mackinlay MP

These developments are the onshore part of Nemo Link.

The pylons, most of them 50 metres tall, will pass close to the villages of Sarre, Upstreet, Hersden and Westbere.

Mr Clark’s decision to sign off the Richborough Connection scheme after a lengthy planning inquiry has sparked a backlash from those who fear it will scar the landscape.

Mr Mackinlay was not the only one with concerns as former Canterbury MP Sir Julian Brazier was also a fierce objector.

Many wanted the power lines put underground, but National Grid said that was too expensive.

National Grid says the new connection will play a “vital role in ensuring the country has a safe, reliable and secure electricity supply to keep the lights on”.

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