Hollywood star James Stewart's former Norfolk base may be forced to move by National Grid pylon plan

  • ITV News Anglia's Natalie Gray met those objecting to the plans

A gliding club at an airfield where Hollywood actor James Stewart was stationed during the Second World War could be forced to move if plans to build a huge line of pylons through the countryside are approved.

The star of It's a Wonderful Life was one of the squadron commanders for the 445th Bomb Group which was based at Tibenham Airfield in Norfolk.

But the gliding club which is now based at the airfield says that legacy is under threat by a new line of 50-metre tall pylons proposed to run between Norwich and Tilbury in Essex.

The power line is needed to bring renewable energy from the East coast down to the population centres of the south East, and would run for 110 miles (180km) through Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

National Grid's plans have attracted huge opposition from communities near the planned route, with Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils and locals MPs also coming out against the proposal.

Eric Ratcliffe, chair of Norfolk Gliding Club, said the plans would be a disaster for the club. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Eric Ratcliffe of Norfolk Gliding Club said it would have a huge impact on the club.

"I think it's going to be an absolute disaster both operationally and financially for this club," he said.

"It's going to prevent us using two of our historic runways where Jimmy Stewart flew in World War Two. We already have a set of pylons down the east side of our runway and now they are going to try and put another set down the west sides of our runways."

Critics of the plans have asked for undersea or underground cable routing to be considered instead.

Suffolk County Councillor Richard Rout said: "The MPs along the pylon run are united in opposition to this scheme and we as a county council and many other local authorities are objecting to it as it stands, so I think there is a strong body of support for an offshore alternative."

James Cartlidge, the South Suffolk MP. Credit: ITV News Anglia

MP James Cartlidge, whose South Suffolk constituency would be affected, said protection of the countryside had to be balanced with the needs for new infrastructure to achieve carbon zero by 2050.

"They are huge constructions and clearly have a massive negative impact on the countryside and on the people who live here.

"This is about saying we do support offshore wind, we want to drive forward with our journey to net zero, [but] we've got to balance that against protecting our rural heritage."

National Grid said it would consider the feedback from the consultation before submitting its planning application, expected in late 2024. If approved, the line could be operational by 2030.

Liam Walker of National Grid said: "It's really important to say that no decisions are being made at this moment in time.

"We need to get all the feedback in from all the consultation events and that will inform the plans that we then go out and consult on next year, and that information and data will help shape what the plans look like."

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