Fallen power pole was condemned years ago

An electricity pole which was blown over by strong winds close to a north Northumberland farm last week should have been replaced years ago, after it was deemed unsafe in 2009, a power company has admitted.

Friday, 28th September 2018, 10:47 am
Updated Friday, 28th September 2018, 11:12 am
The D notice can be seen on the fallen electricity pole, as farmer Harry McGregor points out. Picture by Jane Coltman

Forceful gusts tore down the post on the road besides Broome Hill Farm, on Alnwick Moor, last Wednesday, as Storm Ali ripped through the county, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

The farm was left without mains electricity for the best part of three days following the collapse.

Harry is seen with the broken stump of the pole. Picture by Jane Coltman

But farmer Harry McGregor is more annoyed at the fact that the pole was never replaced, despite being declared unsafe by experts almost a decade ago – exposing him and others to a potentially life-threatening situation last week.

The collapsed electricity post was issued with a D notice following an inspection in 2009. Earlier this week, Northern Powergrid said that this means that the post is ‘unsafe to climb’ and should have been replaced within ‘two years’, but ‘regrettably, this one has been missed’.

However, Mr McGregor has accused the power board of cost cutting, claiming that several poles in one of his fields have not been replaced despite having D notices on them. He added that a pole which came down about four years ago, located further along the road, also had a D notice on it.

Northern Powergrid has said it will carry out an inspection of the poles in the field, after the issue was raised with the company by the Gazette.

Harry McGregor with the broken pole.

Reflecting on last week’s incident, Mr McGregor said: “This was dangerous. We were left without power after the pole collapsed last Wednesday morning, but it is more about the danger element. Imagine if that had come down and hit somebody. It is the principle of leaving this pole in place and not replacing it. After the pole collapsed, the cables came off and they ended up being only two metres from the sheep pens – it was dangerous.

“Since this happened, I have had a look around, and in one of the farm’s field, there’s three poles with D notices on.”

Mr McGregor also wonders how many more poles are likes this throughout the county.

Following the damage to the pole, the farm was left without electricity until last Friday evening, when a generator was put in – although this cut out twice.

Harry on the road to Broome Hill Farm. Picture by Jane Coltman

A replacement pole was finally installed last Saturday afternoon, returning proper power to the farm.

However, as a result of the long-term power cut, guests in the farm’s holiday cottage checked out early, because they had no hot water, heating or electricity.

A Northern Powergrid spokeswoman said: “D Notices are placed on poles which have been identified as being unsafe to climb and should only be accessed via a platform. Any identified poles should be replaced within two years.

“Our overhead network, which covers the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire consists of around 400,000 wooden poles.

The road to Broome Hill Farm. Picture by Jane Coltman

“Every 10 years we carry out a foot patrol of that network to identify any concerns with those structures.

“The last patrol was conducted in 2009 when this pole would have been identified. Since that patrol was carried out we have replaced some 50,000 wooden poles and regrettably this one has been missed.

“We invest around £1million every day in the region’s power network to ensure our customers continue to receive a safe, secure and reliable power supply.”

Northern Powergrid told the Gazette that last week’s high winds caused problems to the network in Northumberland, with wide-spread damage caused to overhead powerlines, ‘mainly as a result of wind-borne debris and fallen trees’.

The spokeswoman said: “From the morning of Wednesday, September 19, through to the evening of Friday, September 21, we saw more than 100 incidents on our network in the Northumberland area, affecting some 15,500 customers.

“Our engineers were able to restore customers’ power by switching electricity through alternative routes on our network, wherever possible. Wind speeds were so severe that it affected the ability for our teams to access equipment at height and climb to work safely on the overhead network.

“As soon as it was safe to do so our teams started carrying out repairs to get the lights back on for our customers, and our helicopter was deployed in Northumberland as well as teams carrying out foot patrol inspections to identify damage on our network.

“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience.”