Did National Grid Successfully Bribe Conservative MP Eric Pickles?

The only explanation for Eric Pickles MP allowing a massive industrial gas complex to be built against local and national planning rules on beautiful gloucestershire farm land, a plant that has been proved to be unnecessary could be that money has changed hands unofficially. Ether that or complete stupidity is at play here.

National Grid first applied to the Forest of Dean Borough council to build this plant. The plant would sit at the end of the controversial Gas Pipe connecting Milford Haven with Tirley, Gloucestershire. The pipe will run at 97bar pressure, something that in several other countries is illegal due to instability and the safety history of similar pipes.

The Forest of Dean Borough council refused the application and it went to appeal. After locals raised over £30,000 (no small feat) to hire legal representation for the enquiry, the Labour secretary of state concluded that the plant was unececery and completely inappropriate, breaking both national and local planning rules.

National Grid then, in an underhand move applied to build the same plant just 400 yards away simply beacause this field fell under a different borough council, Tewkesbury.

EVERY member of Tewkesbury Borough Council’s planning comittee objected. The plans were refused unanimously.  12 Parish councils objected, over 1000 residents objected (remember this is a sparcly populated agricultural area) and 3 MP’s objected. This is not just NIMBYism as has been suggested; although the thought of this plant destroying businesses (noise levels) and rendering it impossable for residents to sell their houses is not a pleasant one for anybody.

There is already a gas plant at nearby Wormington, there is space for the plant there – in fact off the record, Murphy engineers working in Tirley (and drinking in the local pubs) have said that it’s insanity that the plant is not being located Wormington as it makes long term sense.

This is the main reason: extending the pipe line just a few more miles to the existing gas works at Wormington would bypass a bottleneck in the network. Because the pressure of the gas would not need to be lowered to the same extent (the bottleneck would be out of the equation) the plant would only need to be a fraction of the size the Tirley plant will be and therefore would be more efficient and enviromentally friendly.

Sadly, in the short term at least, this option would be more expensive for National Grid, a private company who on one hand report profits of billions during a ressesion and on the other insist they must raise energy prices for the rest of us.

National Gird Appealed once again. This time it was different, there was a new government in power, one that quite publicly values cash flow above human cost. Again, locals were asked to raise over £30,000 for the second time.

Mr Eric Pickles MP, while publicly wanting to “…(introduce) radical new reforms that will mark an end to the hoarding of power within central government and hand control back to individuals, communities and councils” with his localism bill, chose to grant permission to build the gas plant.

The reports in Mr Pickle’s possession detailed all of the above. The reports contained proof that there was a solution to this problem available to National Grid that would have less environmental cost and far less (if any) objection. Why then did he choose to go ahead, especially while shouting about his ‘localism’ bill. Power to local communities and councils when it suits Westminster’s own needs and only then!

I’m trying very hard to think of a scenario in which this course of events would have played out without bribes being involved. Remember – Mr Pickles’ Labour predecessor threw this plan out on the grounds that it was inappropriate, insensitive and unnecessary being that there was a far better solution available that would, in the long term make the supply of gas from this pipe cheaper resulting in lower energy bills (or bigger profit margins). The Conservatives obviously have an interest in protecting National Grid’s short term profits, but why?