Industry: water, steel & energy

Savinson, Richard (1 of 2) An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Interviewees

    Savinson, Richard (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Track 1 [1:03:02] [Interview one: 17 July 2014] Remarks introducing self: aged 83; born in Belfast to Jewish family; grew up in London; received law degree from University College London; articles in local government; National Service; work as local government lawyer, latterly in Stevenage Urban District Council, but joining CEGB [Central Electricity Generating Board] as a lawyer due to better prospects. [o1:00] Remarks on joining CEGB: RS knowing nothing about CEGB before interview research; interview with arrogant Alec Wright, later CEGB Secretary who questioned RS on overhead line laws. [02:05] Remarks on RS work as planning lawyer in CEGB Solicitors' Department: interaction with salesman-like wayleave officers located all over country and Guildford transmission engineers. [pause 3:10] Remarks on process for gaining consent for overhead line: application to Department of Fuel and Power; wayleave officer and engineer negotiating with landowners for payment for use of land; hearings to settle objections from [landowner] farmers and public inquires for local authority objections; Department of Fuel and Power team of engineering inspectors conducting public inquires; [04:30 pause] RS advocate for CEGB at inquires, working with barristers on significant cases; local authority objections and subsequent inquiry into 400kV scheme for Boars Hill, where CEGB architect Sylvia Crowe gave evidence, but CEGB lost case; short description of why under-grounding cables cost more than using overhead pylons; [06:10 pause] small size of planning hearings, lengthy nature of public inquires; mentions Alec Wright as a good boss; anecdote about RS closing hole in evidence over substation in Warwickshire; main objections to pylons on grounds of amenity, line planners skilled at working around problems; RS seeing role as purveyor of pylons to the public; anecdote about local resident's poor view of CEGB during a site inspection; RS enjoying work, pleasant relations with colleagues, RS success at work; new lines justified on grounds of need for power, established by planning department information; inquiries for whole lines not individual pylons; mentions wayleave officer Carlyle Clarke later becoming caretaker at the American Museum in Bath; RS view of pylons as necessity to keep the lights on; CEGB dedication to keeping the lights on; RS work a small contribution to much larger and varied operations of CEGB. [12:45] Remarks on: RS part of solicitor's department based in modern Paternoster offices; importance of keeping friendly with typing pool manager; RS allocated work by Alec Wright; research work in office followed by site visit with wayleave officer; production of proof's of evidence by RS, wayleave officer and engineer; RS involved with many cases, good track record for winning inquires, with exceptions such as undergrounding of cable required at Boars Hill and to Anglesy Aluminium plant; CEGB putting onus for justifying undergrounding on objectors; other lawyers involved in work by RS main lawyer on wayleaves in department; [16:50] interaction with CEGB technical experts, such as over undergrounding; anecdote about refugee technical expert's driving test; mentions a demanding technical expert; importance of landscape architects, such as Sylvia Crowe to advise on line layout. [19:25] Remarks on CEGB: RS enjoying work for CEGB; criticism of 'goldplated' approach of CEGB, but infrastructure standing the test of time; deficiencies of privatised industry's ability to plan in long term, dependence on foreign expertise for nuclear power and supplies of gas; 'Daily Mail' call for return of CEGB; technical problems during introduction of new 500MW and 660MW generators and AGR [Advanced Gas Reactors]; CEGB successful in objective of keeping the lights on; high status of CEGB Board Member for Planning Donald Clarke. [22:10] Remarks on: RS work connected with local 132kV issues, such as a line near Swansea, and with last stages of Supergrid construction; similarity of procedures for 132kV and 400kV lines; anecdote about RS not wanting to purchase a house with an overhead line over it; public concerns over health aspects of living near overhead lines; good terms of working for CEGB, good salary, heavily unionised grading system, good management training system; regular working hours in office but more flexible when out conducting inquires; coping with unexpected difficulties part of the job; working with barristers in large inquires, such as David Trustram-Eve [also known as David Silsoe]. [27:50] Remarks on RS career: dwindling of work on pylons leading to RS change roles to become head of section applying for consents; CEGB career planning identifying RS as a potential regional secretary, RS turning down job in South West Region, but becoming secretary in North West Region in 1976; RS working at Paternoster from 1965-1976; mentions spending about 4 years in planning consents. [29:50] Remarks on RS work on power station planning: huge amounts of pulverised fuel ash [PFA] produced by large power stations causing a disposal problem; opposition to CEGB plans to build a hill out of PFA at Burn Airfield; anecdote about teasing barrister Peter Boydell, an establishment figure who wintered in the West Indies. [32:50] Remarks on dealing with barristers: importance of barrister’s chambers' clerk; inquires providing an opportunity to socialise with barristers outside of their normal restrictions; outline of barrister’s duties and interaction with barrister over inquiry process. [35:50] Further remarks on Drax PFA storage inquiry: RS later research on case at National Archives revealing interaction between Ministry of Power and local government that led to second inquiry; CEGB preparing environmental assessment of site, edited by RS; eventual solution of former Ministry of Defence Barlow Depot to dump PFA; clarification of RS role in Solicitors' Department at time of Drax inquiry; solicitor’s department also dealing with coal contracts. [38:25] Remarks on work on Dinorwig hydroelectric station: mentions issues limiting hydroelectric power in Britain; outline of principles of pump storage power plant; small pump storage station at Ffestiniog; description of pump storage scheme at former slate quarry at Dinorwig; description of process for private act of Parliament to move stream, appearance before select committee; opposition from environmental groups, in spite of local support for scheme; [43:45] anecdote about enlisting of local MP Goronwy Roberts to help bill pass third reading; Lady Eirene White supporting bill in House of Lords, at price of environmental centre at Llanberis; mentions Drax PFA mountain now a nature reserve; Ramblers Association and other environmental groups, from outside Wales, objecting to Dinorwig; need to protect environment in Snowdonia, but Dinowic already damaged by slate quarrying. [47:20] RS comments on CEGB chairman Arthur Hawkins, anecdote about RS reformatting CEGB Plowden Report evidence to meet Hawkins' requirements. [51:00] Remarks on: RS role editing together CEGB submission to Plowden Report from different groups submissions, CEGB favouring unitary organisation for ESI structure; RS limited interaction with Electricity Council; RS work with South Wales Electricity Board over line from Swansea to Llanelli. [52:40] Remarks on RS promotion to become regional secretary of North West region: RS admin role; anecdote about nuclear emergency exercise on RS first day; Director of Generation Bob Peddie; anecdote about " Peddie's Palace" holiday cottage; mentions working with David Jefferies but working for regional Director General. [54:30] Remarks on: RS mutual respect with engineers; RS local government experience making him diplomatic in dealing with others, mentions later work with Area Board chairman Jim Smith; RS habit of visiting staff at work; CEGB male dominated industry, but women in secretarial roles well treated; role of secretaries as gatekeepers; RS deal with CEGB financial director Fred Bonner over conditions for RS move to Northwest, RS returning home to London on weekends. [57:30] Story about RS appointment as Deputy Secretary of Electricity Council: chagrin of CEGB secretary Alec Wright, later replaced by John Baker; description of Electricity Council chairman Austin Bunch, with comparison with Arthur Hawkins; RS interview with Austin Bunch; RS not expecting to get job as other regional secretaries applied, such as Mike Carney; RS phone call from Secretary Brian Murphy offering him job. [1:00:25] Remarks on RS promotion to become Secretary of Electricity Council: mentions cultured Secretary John Wedgewood; civil service atmosphere of Electricity Council disrupted by powerful personalities of Francis Tombs and Austin Bunch; RS returning from holiday early after death of Brian Murphy; RS appointment as Secretary of Electricity Council. [1:02:00] Remarks on powerful leaders in CEGB, such as Arthur Hawkins and Austin Bunch, gate keeper role of secretaries such as Janet Topp.

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