Morecambe Bay power tunnel plan ‘paused’

A map of the proposed North West Coast Connections route.
A map of the proposed North West Coast Connections route.

Plans to build a tunnel carrying electricity cables under Morecambe Bay have been put on hold.

The National Grid is “pausing” work on getting government consent for 13 miles of tunnel to connect a proposed new nuclear power station at Cumbria to the network at Middleton near Heysham.

This comes after NuGen – a firm planning to develop a new nuclear power station near Sellafield – also put its plans for consent on hold.

A National Grid spokesman said: “Despite this pause, we are confident the connection will still be ready when NuGen requires it and are continuing to work closely with them.”

The £10bn Moorside project hit a major snag after Toshiba, which owns the controlling stake in NuGen, posted a net annual loss of 390bn yen. The company was then forced to buy NuGen ouright when French utility company Engie sold its shares.

Toshiba has said it will continue to work on the development of a nuclear power station in Cumbria but will not be involved in its construction.

A 13-week public consultation was held on the electricity connection plans, closing in January this year. The plans caused controversy with some residents worried over the route the tunnel might take under houses at Heysham.

There are also fears that building the tunnel head house might cause years of disruption for nearby residents.

A National Grid spokesman said: “NuGen has announced it is conducting a strategic review to look at its ownership and technology vendor.

“NuGen is confident this review will lead to an outcome that provides a more robust, stable and sustainable platform to meet its commitment to deliver the next generation of nuclear power. As a result of focussing their efforts on this review, NuGen are pausing work on their development consent order for Moorside.

“In light of this, we have decided to pause our work to consent NuGen’s connection and take the time to understand NuGen’s programme to make sure our projects are aligned.”