Rural Northumberland residents in fight to get mains electricity

Residents in a remote Northumberland valley have launched a fight to secure mains electricity

Shona Anderson of Linshields Farm near Alwinton, with the generator the farm has instead of a mains supply
Shona Anderson of Linshields Farm near Alwinton, with the generator the farm has instead of a mains supply

Residents in a remote Northumberland valley who have no mains electricity have launched a fight for a conventional supply.

People living at 21 isolated farms in the Upper Coquet Valley past Rothbury, within Northumberland National Park, have no mains supply and must rely on generators and other means of power.

However, they say their supplies are expensive and unreliable, and hinder their work plans.

They have been working with various bodies in a bid to have mains electricity brought to their homes.

Now, the residents have attracted more than 450 signatures on a petition calling on Northumberland County Council to help.

The affected residents live on farms in the valley beyond Alwinton, within the Otterburn Training Area, and are tenants of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Last night, two of the residents who set up the petition told of life without mains electricity.

Katherine Singer, 31, of Linbriggs Farm, and Shona Anderson, 36, of Linshiels Farm, two miles past Alwinton, both spend up to £10,000 a year on diesel for their generators, £7 a day according to the latter, with added costs for repairs and servicing, and other energy sources.

Katherine and her family use a gas cooker for food and a cylinder for heating, while Shona and her family use an oil Aga for cooking and rely on a coal fire.

The women say their electricity supply is expensive, unreliable and inconvenient – with Shona saying she and her family can only have one appliance plugged in at a time.

Katherine told how her farm business can not diversify at a time when many others are doing so to make ends meet, because of the lack of mains electricity.

Shona Anderson of Linshields Farm near Alwinton with husband Scott and sons Tyla and Taime
Shona Anderson of Linshields Farm near Alwinton with husband Scott and sons Tyla and Taime
 

She revealed how the announcement that government backed superfast broadband would be coming into rural Northumberland had sparked residents into action.

“Yes, that would be brilliant but perhaps they should look into [the fact] we have not got mains electricity. That to us would be a bigger priority.”

The residents have been in talks with partners including Northumberland National Park Authority, MoD and Northern Power Grid over the possibility of them getting mains electricity.

The petition, signed by more than 450 residents, calls on the county council to work with the authority and other organisations to conduct a study into the extent and location of off-grid properties in the Upper Coquet Valley and other remote rural areas in Northumberland.

It also calls on the council to provide support “in terms of technical and funding expertise and if necessary elements of finance to provide a mains electricity supply to these fuel poor properties”.

Katherine said: “We believe everyone should have mains electricity in this day and age.

“Yes we want our problem sorted in the Coquet Valley, but we want to make them aware that there is, nationally, quite a big problem.”

The signatures go before the county council’s petitions committee on January 22.

A report to the meeting tells how the issue has been discussed “on a number of previous occasions” but that “several earlier attempts to extend the grid in this area have foundered”.

It adds: “Council officers are actively involved with initiatives looking at the issues identified by the petitioners. This work has been initiated by the MoD at Otterburn Training Area and involves local residents, the Northumberland National Park Authority and Northern Power Grid. The county council is providing technical support and funding advice.”

The committee is being advised to continue this approach and to consider direct financial support in “response to any emerging business case for electricity grid extension... subject to normal NCC prioritisation within the medium term financial planning process.”

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