All local residents have received leaflets outlining the National Grid’s ‘Sea Link’ proposal. In brief this is an undersea high voltage cable linking Suffolk to Kent to upgrade the National Grid transmission infrastructure. This is required to cope with increasing electricity demand and the connection of new green energy sources as we move away from dependency on fossil fuels.

The perceived need and final plans are detailed in the National Grid information with extensive documentation on their website. Residents were asked to provide feedback either on the website or using the consultation forms by 18th December 2023. We sent out material to help, but if you were not able to reply by this date do not worry as there will inevitably be further stages of public consultation to follow!

The Ramsgate Society also held a members-only meeting on 26th November to put the environmental case, focussing on the Minster Marshes where the plans locate a significant amount of infrastructure. The meeting was chaired by John Walker with presentations by local Green Party councillor Becky Wing and local wildlife champions Keith Ross and Nik Mitchell.

It was well attended and we were treated to some beautiful wildlife photography and impassioned speeches by the two wildlife experts. The Marshes do not have specific SSSI designation (unlike Pegwell Bay which is also affected) but are an area of high importance to several endangered bird species and a migratory route for many more.

The Sea Link proposal represents one of a deluge of projects that will be required to enable the transition to clean green energies and away from fossil fuels, and all will have significant environmental impacts.

The Society’s position is that to arrest or slow climate change, projects like these are necessary, but that scrutiny of the plans with a full environmental assessment and presentation of alternative proposals is essential. Many of the decisions are being made purely on financial grounds, without any consideration of the environmental cost which is not priced into the assessments. In addition, scrutiny of the project as it develops is required to ensure that the National Grid sticks to its promises, minimises the impact of whichever route is chosen, and uses the least intrusive construction techniques even when they are not the cheapest.

For the Marshes, there are two significantly troubling items in the proposals among many concerns:

  • The Converter Station will cover an area of 21 football pitches in this important site. Are there not other more suitable locations?
  • The link from the Converter Station to grid connection at Richborough is to be carried on overhead cables on a funnel of massive pylons, right in the route of many migratory birds including large populations of geese and swans. Could this not be underground?

The Minster Marshes issue is a timely example of the strains we will face in the future, as our natural and built environment gets to grips with the demands of reducing our greenhouse gas footprint. The carrying capacity of the electricity grid needs to treble, we need more generation (wind and solar, and perhaps tidal and other forms), more storage (battery farms), and more distribution lines. This will take its toll on the natural environment and be anathema to many, and the Minster Marshes is just one of hundreds if not thousands of sites to face potential damage. We need to examine and choose the best compromise solutions. There are always multiple routes to the same end. Companies chasing profit will look for the cheapest option, but that is rarely (often?) the best.

Reducing our carbon footprint is not just removing our reliance on fossil fuels and switching to green energies. The biggest impact we can make is reducing our use of energy. Insulate our built environment, travel less, eat less meat, buy fewer things and buy locally. However, as coal, oil and gas are removed as energy sources, the demands on our electricity supply become bigger, however much we try to reduce our consumption.

Like it or not, these changes will have environmental impacts, and we should strive to ensure that these are managed and minimised. Also, we should not forget how wildlife and vegetation can adapt. Just walk around Pegwell and remember that not many years ago a large hovercraft operation was running many daily services from Ramsgate to France!

Phil Shotton

Ramsgate Society Lead on the Environment and Climate Change