Those already familiar with the concept will know that XLinks intend to transfer power generated by solar and wind installations in Morocco, through undersea cables, to the United Kingdom. These will make landfall at Cornborough Range, before being transferred through approximately 14km of underground high voltage cabling to a new converter station in Gammaton. The original proposals for the site, in the middle of rolling Torridge countryside, would have required 55 acres and at least five years of construction.
Understandably, there have been concerns raised by local residents – with more than 80 attending a meeting with me late last year. At this meeting, it was clear there was disquiet at the approach of the developer to the natural desire of local people to understand the precise impacts on their community and at the limited detail available to them. That is why I wrote to the Chief Executive of XLinks and met him and the company’s representatives to urge a review of their approach and a new consultation.
I understand the importance of the United Kingdom diversifying its sources of energy production, especially in an increasingly unpredictable and hostile world and a decision on any planning application is for Torridge District Council. However, my priority remains making sure our local, rural communities are not ignored and their voice is heard. The CEO undertook to remain in close contact with me and to carry out a more thorough consultation with the local community before submitting a planning application. Since my meeting with XLinks, the company has now announced two promising steps. First, they will be extending the consultation period; second, they will be conducting a second round of public exhibitions later this month.
Updated details of the XLinks proposals have also been forthcoming. They have now proposed to relocate the converter station site to the old Webbery Showground, closer to the existing National Grid substation. The route for the underground cable has also been altered to avoid Abbotsham. There is also more detail regarding the proposed construction phase, including the transport routes used for the project.
If you would like to see more details on the XLinks proposals, you can find them on my Facebook page or on the XLinks website: xlinks.co/devon
At the conclusion of this process, I have also asked the CEO of XLinks to attend an additional and final public meeting, which I shall chair. Given the scale and size of the project, I shall continue to monitor this proposal closely.