Pylons to be torn down to improve treasured views

The Peak District, one of four protected landscapes which are to be transformed by removing the electricity pylons and overhead lines that scar the view, under plans unveiled by National Grid.
The Peak District, one of four protected landscapes which are to be transformed by removing the electricity pylons and overhead lines that scar the view, under plans unveiled by National Grid.
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SOME of the biggest and ugliest pylons scarring the view at the gateway to the Peak District national park are to be torn down.

Half a dozen pylons will be taken down near the village of Dunford Bridge and the high-voltage transmission lines buried underground, as part of a £500m project which will also see overhead lines removed in the New Forest, Peak District and Snowdonia national parks and Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The cost will be paid for by domestic consumers at the rate of around 22p a year for the next 50 years.

Work to replace the pylons will begin in 2018, with a new line laid alongside the Transpennine trail, which crosses the Peak District.

The four schemes have been prioritised from 12 sections of electricity lines in eight national parks and AONBs across England and Wales which were considered to have the most significant impact on protected landscapes.

Landscapes in the Brecon Beacons National Park and High Weald, North Wessex Downs and Tamar Valley AONBs were not prioritised for a share of the £500m allowance made available by regulator Ofgem up to 2021.

Environmentalist Chris Baines, who chaired the stakeholder group of conservation organisations which advised National Grid on which lines to prioritise, said some “difficult decisions” had to be made. He said: “Reducing the visual impact of pylons and power lines in our most precious landscapes is highly desirable, but it is also very expensive and technically complex so we have had to make some difficult decisions.

“Although four schemes have been prioritised, none of the locations on our original short list have been dropped and they will remain under consideration for future work to reduce the impact of National Grid’s transmission lines under the vision impact provision project.”

The pylons and a “sealing end compound”, where a high-voltage underground cable joins onto an overhead line, to be removed are in the area east of the Woodhead tunnel. Hector Pearson, from National Grid, said: “It is really the quality of the landscape in that area and the effects of the existing sealing end compound on Dunford Bridge, which is very visually intrusive.

“The landscapes we looked at are all very high value. The decision was taken by a group of stakeholders, it is not a National Grid decision per se.”

Mr Pearson said the biggest cost in the project would be moving the compound: “We want to spend all the money by 2021 and we ideally would like to be starting on the ground in 2018. Over the next 12 months we will be doing detailed site investigations and environmental studies to get the project underway and hopefully round about this time next year we will be in a position to start applying for consents.”

Different ways of reducing the impact in the locations has been considered, but burying the cables has generally proved the preferred option technically and in discussion with local stakeholders, National Grid said.

• The pylons at Dunford Bridge have their admirers as well as their detractors. Some even question whether they are ugly at all, and claim their “alien-like” nature is best revealed in the barren hills.

Others question whether consumers really want to add more cost to their bills (the ninth highest in Europe, according to 2014 figures) and suggest the wind turbines with their moving blades on the edge of the park are more of a blot on the landscape.

National Grid says the inspiration for the project came from a survey of consumers, which showed people were prepared to pay a little more on their bills to improve some of the country’s most treasured landscapes. While domestic consumers will pay at the rate of around 22p a year for 50 years, commercial users will pay “substantially more.”