THE NATIONAL Grid has been urged to ditch “scandalous” plans for a tunnel under the Menai Strait as its controversial proposals for a new row of overhead pylons on Anglesey gather steam.

This week, the Planning Inspectorate confirmed that it had accepted the Grid’s plans for a new 400,000 volt connection for Wylfa Newydd, which will now proceed to the official examination stage.

This means the proposals for a new line of overhead pylons across Anglesey and a tunnel under the Menai Strait will be reviewed by the Inspectorate to decide if they should be given the go-ahead.

But the contentious plans have proved unpopular locally, with the Grid accused at a public meeting last week of “running roughshod” over Anglesey by persisting with the cheapest option of overhead pylons at the expense of the county council’s favoured option of the cables being underground.

As well as pylons, the proposals also include a tunnel under the Menai Strait, which the local AM claims could cost as much as £300m, despite official estimates being closer to the £100m mark.

This is despite calls for the Grid to work with the Welsh Government on carrying the cables on a third Menai Crossing instead.

Under such an arrangement, the Grid would contribute financially towards a new bridge – expected to cost around £135m – but the company says that such an arrangement could prove problematic if techincal and timing considerations are not met.

“Why spend hundreds of millions on a tunnel?” said economic development portfolio holder Cllr Carwyn Jones.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way, and here we have a perfect opportunity for the Welsh Government and the Grid to show the will and work together now on fully undergrounding and carrying the cables over a third crossing of the Menai.

“This would be more in line with the principles of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.”

The issue was also discussed at the Senedd this week, with First Minister Carwyn Jones stating that it’s “extremely important” for such an option to be considered and that the Grid was aware of the views of the Assembly and local people.

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth said in the chamber: “The DCO application has been submitted, but the Grid haven’t given an inch in response to the pressure from me, the MP, the council or, more importantly, the unanimity of the people of Anglesey that we need to underground these cables.

“And, with a further suggestion that a tunnel that could put cables under the Menai could cost £300m, isn’t it clear that it would be a scandal if the money, or part of that money, weren’t spent on a new bridge to carry cables and vehicles, with the rest being invested in undergrounding?”

Commenting on the Planning Inspectorate’s acceptance of its Development Consent Order (DCO) application, Gareth Williams of the National Grid said: “This is a further important step in seeking consent for our proposals and helping to unlock the many millions of pounds of local investment and jobs that the power station will create.

“We’ve worked hard to develop our proposals in a way that we think means there will be no long term effects on most areas of Anglesey and North Gwynedd.

“We’ve received thousands of pieces of feedback, all of which have been considered and we’ve done what we can to take people’s comments on board.

“Decisions such as keeping the new line close to the existing line, routing away from larger towns and villages, and putting the connection in a tunnel at the Menai Strait have all been taken to keep effects as low as we can.

“However, any infrastructure project will create effects and it’s important now that our proposals are given a thorough and independent review.”