'Power parasites' jibe in row over future of the former Cockenzie power station

Offshore energy firms have been branded “power parasites” in a row over the future of a former power station site in East Lothian.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 4:45 pm

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The former Cockenzie site has been in the ownership of East Lothian Council for more than three years but to date the only projects approved for the land have been two substations to bring energy onshore from offshore windfarms.

The second substation was given the go ahead this week despite an objection by Prestonpans Community Council and a claim by the applicant themselves that it may never get off the ground.

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Boom...the iconic towers at Cockenzie were brought down in 2015

Now community councillor Calum Miller has launched an attack on the energy firms for making land grabs at Cockenzie with no real benefits for the surrounding towns and villages.

He said: “The power parasites are sucking the productive land out of East Lothian, leaving net zero jobs behind.

“Our communities are just host to their massive infrastructure for nothing in return.”

Seagreen, who are behind the latest substation proposal, has been granted planning permission in principle for a building on the site which it estimated would be 22,000 metres square.

It will bring energy from 36 offshore wind turbines onto shore with a substation built on top of a former gasholder site.

Inch Cape Offshore Limited already have planning approval for a substation to bring energy from another offshore windfarm onto the site which has connections to the National Grid.

At a virtual meeting of East Lothian’s planning committee, concerns over a lack of detail on where the proposed cables would come ashore were raised by Prestonpans Community Council.

The community council said it was concerned about the impact on Prestonpans beach, which has undergone ‘significant ‘ erosion in recent years.

They told the committee: “The beach is now quite steep with significant height variability between low and high tide.

“We have no idea what we will see at low tide once the cable has been installed. Nor do we have any indication of what the minimum depth is of the cable trench at sea.

“Drifting wind farm cables have been know to cause significant issues for the fishing industry. The positioning and rigidity of this cable position will also be a key concern to any port related activities on the Preston Links site.

“We should know the exact sea cable routes and characteristics before signing off this project.”

The community council is keen to see a port or cruise terminal included in part of the former power station site development.

Seagreen currently has a £3bn offshore wind farm development under construction after it was granted exclusive rights for the Firth of Forth Zone of the UK’s Round 3 offshore wind farm development programme.

Committee members asked the company if it would be able to work with Inch Cape to combine work so that a single cable could be installed to serve both substations.

However their representative Michael Fenney told the committee it was not commercially viable to work together adding: “There is no guarantee of either project going ahead.”

The committee agreed to grant planning permission in principle after being told the siting of the cables would be brought back for discussion at a later stage of the process.

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