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Proposed Substation for Network Rail

Substation Action Group

SAG Logo by Tony Daffern

Revision 10 of 5. October 2004

This page is organised in chronological order : latest news is at the bottom of the page.


The Inaugural meeting of the S.A.G. was held in Acton Bridge Parish Room on Tuesday 21. October 2003. It was attended by members of Acton Bridge, Weaverham and Hartford Parish Councils, and the Weaverham Trust ; Vale Royal Borough Councillors representing Acton Bridge and Weaverham; and a small number of concerned residents, by invitation.

Officers were elected, and the minutes of the previous meeting with Vale Royal Planning Department, and progress on actions which had been agreed at it, were discussed. The principal business of the evening was to agree a series of further actions, and to delegate same to the Officers and volunteers. A Technical Committee was also formed, to research some of the arguments being put forward by National Grid and Network Rail in support of their claimed need for the substation to be in this area at all, and in this location in particular.

It was decided that we should have a public meeting in Acton Bridge Parish Room on Friday 14. November, at which people from Acton Bridge, Weaverham and surrounding villages would be welcome to discuss the proposed substation and make their views known (click on the link below for more information).

In view of the frequent visits to this web site by the parties proposing the substation development, and by their potential contractors, details of the S.A.G. minutes and actions are not being published here. Members of the local community with a genuine interest are invited to contact us by e-mail, and reasonable enquiries will of course be answered wherever possible.

The S.A.G. met again on Monday 10. November 2003, to discuss the progress of the campaign and its future strategy, in particular to set an agenda for the meeting with Mike Hall MP on 14. November. There was also a detailed planning session for the public meeting to be held the same evening in Acton Bridge, and again on Friday 21. November 2003 in Weaverham, at which Mr Hall would be present from about 7pm.

The SAG held a private meeting with Mike Hall MP in Acton Bridge on 14. November. Mr Hall offered his unequivocal support to the group and discussed various aspects of the campaign. Much of the discussion was obviously confidential, but he was later quoted in the Northwich Chronicle as backing the SAG, and saying: 'The Substation Action Group has acted very, very responsibly. They have tried to find the answers to their questions, such as does it have to be this large, and are there other alternative sites in the area?'

The SAG's public meeting on 14. November achieved what the Northwich Guardian described as a "remarkable turnout", and is the subject of a separate page.

The next public SAG event was held in Weaverham Community Centre, on Friday 21. November from 6pm to 9pm. This followed the same "drop in" format as the first meeting in Acton Bridge on 14. November. New visitors brought the total number of our feedback forms to over 200. Mike Hall MP was present to show his very strong commitment to the campaign, and has written to the SRA and the developers demanding answers to his questions about the need for the substation and its proposed location.

There was a full meeting of the Substation Action Group on Tuesday 2. December, with a full agenda in anticipation of the submission of a Planning Application by the developers. Many people felt that the timing of the Application, so close to Christmas and at a busy time of year for everyone, was a cynical move to minimise opposition. The developers have asked to be invited to make a statement at the next meeting of Acton Bridge Parish Council (which will, as always, be open to the public) and have also proposed another Public Information Event, this time in Acton Bridge. However, since this would be after their submission of the Planning Application, it can only be intended as a monologue.

After a couple of smaller committee events, at which the Planning Applications by National Grid and Network Rail were studied in detail, the full SAG met again just before Christmas at Acton Bridge Parish Rooms on Monday 22. December to review progress and continue the campaign. Summaries of the planning process and our initial response to the Applications were put forward, and there was an opportunity for everyone to share feedback from other interested parties and the results of our research. It was agreed that "holding" letters should go in to the Local Planning Authority immediately, so that the official deadline for comments was complied with; while we expected that the time limit would be extended into January, no formal confirmation of this had been forthcoming from VRBC. It is now expected that the Officers will place the matter before the VRBC Planning Committee on 24. February, but their report and recommendations will be prepared a few weeks before this so it is important that objections and arguments are lodged as soon as possible, if they are to carry full weight.

Further SAG and committee meetings have continued the campaign. There were public meetings at Acton Bridge Parish Council on 5. January, and an event was organised by National Grid and Network Rail in Acton Bridge Parish Rooms on the 12th; Network Rail and National Grid also addressed Weaverham Parish Council's meeting on 19. January. SAG members were, of course, prominent at these events.

SAG officers had a meeting with representatives of the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail on 21. January to discuss the background to the proposed development, in particular their forecasts of rail traffic growth and consequent power requirements. The SRA promised to provide answers to a number of our questions, and details of the traffic model used in their forecasts, by the end of January, but at the time of writing this information has not been made available to us. This failure will, of course, be noted in the context of "local consultation" when SAG makes its submissions to the Local Planning Authority.

The Substation Action Group reached an important milestone in its campaign in mid-February! Its formal response documents have been printed, bound, and submitted to Vale Royal Borough Council, and a set will be placed in Weaverham Library for public inspection on Friday 20. February. Copies can be made available to interested parties on request to any member of SAG, a local Parish Councillor, or by e-mail via the website, and a four-page summary has also been prepared for ease of reading and distribution.

No-one can doubt the thoroughness of the resulting documentation, which runs to a carefully-edited 75 pages of text and photographs. The arguments for and against the development, which even its proponents concede is in complete contravention of national and local Planning Guidance, will now be considered by VRBC, and also by Cheshire County Council as consultees. The massive replacement pylon, which SAG believes betrays a 'hidden agenda' for later expansion of the site, is also the subject of 'Section 37' consent, and is being vigorously opposed by SAG and many local people who have written to the Secretary of State.

Objectors to the development have been writing to the Planning Officers and Councillors at VRBC, and also to Weaver Vale MP Mike Hall, who has stated his unequivocal support for the Substation Action Group, and has written to VRBC with his own list of six grounds for objection. There is still time for members of the public to express their views, and they are urged to do so as soon as possible.

April 2004

Meetings of the full Substation Action Group were held on Thursday 11. March, and again on Thursday 22. April in Acton Bridge Parish Room, to review and reinforce our campaign against the development of a substation in Acton Bridge and Trackside Feeder Station in Weaverham. We are still awaiting the revised proposals from the developers; at the time of writing, they had undertaken to provide these to the Local Planning Authority by the end of April, so there is not long to go!

Of course, the track record of Network Rail in providing information on schedule is not very good, so we shall not be surprised if they are late this time as well. The developers asked to withdraw their Applications from consideration at CCC's regular Environmental Strategic Panel (ESP) on 10. March, in order to make some significant changes. We believe that these include making the replacement tower much less obtrusive (possibly even smaller than the existing one), and reducing the size of the substation site by abandoning the provision for later conversion to single switch mesh operation.

July 2004

Cheshire County Council's Environment Strategic Panel seems to have swallowed NGT's arguments wholesale and uncritically, a fact apparently admitted by their own Officer during their public meeting on 15. July. This is extremely disappointing in view of the urgent efforts which SAG and its supporters made to provide CCC with a balanced view. Cheshire CC are only consultees to the planning process, so it may not be too serious, but their decision has certainly not been well received in the context of Local Government Reorganisation. Such crass treatment of local issues won't endear a Unitary Cheshire to the electorate!

Following a number of SAG editorial committee and full Action Group meetings, a Public Meeting was held in Acton Bridge on 21. July. Both local newspapers featured the story on 28. July. The Guardian's article carried a photograph and mentioned that almost 100 people packed into the parish rooms to hear about the latest plans, and quoted both Albert Till and Glen Gidley. The petition, suggested from the floor, was inaugurated by Cllr Nora Dolphin and quickly gained some 2,000 signatures from concerned local residents.

September 2004

Work has been going on all through the summer to evaluate the June 2004 Supplementary Report from NGT, and the special technical report which Vale Royal Borough Council commissioned from IPSA Power Limited. To ensure that its own appraisal of the two reports was as well-informed as possible, SAG has held direct meetings with IPSA to clarify their terms of reference and suggest additional lines of enquiry. SAG has also been generously assisted by members of the academic and engineering communities in its analysis of the geophysical and electrical data, making our final report to Vale Royal as comprehensive and authoritative as it can be.

Strenuous efforts were made to ensure that the submissions of SAG and the Parish Councils were delivered to Vale Royal Borough Council within the 21-day deadline. It's very irritating that National Grid have failed to apply the same diligence to their response, and at the time of writing it is still awaited by VRBC. This will probably mean that the Planning Committee hearing will be postponed yet again, from 19. October to 16. November. Let's not have any complaints from the applicants regarding delays in the planning process!

There was a full meeting of the Substation Action Group in Acton Bridge Parish Rooms at 7:30 pm on Thursday 23. September 2004. The Agenda included a review of campaign progress and our formal submissions, and decisions about further actions to carry the arguments forward.

October 2004

Thanks to continuing press coverage and SAG's campaign, most people in the area, and many outside it, are now aware of the development, but it seems that quite a few still don't appreciate how large and prominent the substation would be. To draw attention to the location and scale of the proposed site, members of the Substation Action Group, with the full support of the landowner and another local farmer, have erected bright yellow banners to show just how far the substation complex would stretch along Station Road, ruining the view and destroying forever the rural nature of these communities.

Banners at the site Banners at the site
The banners show the substation site and the extent of NGT's proposed development. The second (above right) and third are ranged along the left-hand side of the road, with the furthest one (just!) visible at the top of the hill, where the new road junction would be.
SAG Supporters will be gathering at the site at 11:00 on Saturday morning (9. October) to reinforce the message, and hand out explanatory leaflets to passers-by. The petition has gained over 1,600 signatures, but there's still time to add more, so if you feel strongly about this development please come along and express your views.

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This content of this web page is the responsibility of its editor, Steve Pardoe, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Acton Bridge Parish Council or any other organisation
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