National Grid is to spend £500M burying electricity cables in AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and National Parks to reduce the visual impact of overhead lines and pylons.
Twelve sections of high voltage lines in eight locations have been shortlisted as having the most significant landscape and visual impact, following an independent study, which assessed 571 km of electricity transmission lines.
The protected landscapes which have been singled out as having existing power lines with the most significant visual impact are:
- Brecon Beacons National Park
- Dorset AONB
- High Weald AONB
- New Forest National Park
- North Wessex Downs AONB
- Peak District National Park
- Snowdonia National Park
- Tamar Valley AONB.
Engineering measures which could be implemented include the replacement of existing overhead lines with underground cables, the re-routing and screening from key public viewpoints of the lines.
National Grid will also spend up to £24M – from the £500M funding pot – for smaller localised visual improvement projects.
A Stakeholder Advisory Group comprising organisations including the Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Campaign to Protect Rural Wales, English Heritage, Natural England, and the National Trust, is helping National Grid to identify which transmission lines should be prioritised and how the fund should be allocated.
Members of the group have recommended that a study on a section of overhead line which crosses the River Tamar in the Tamar Valley AONB should now be progressed to assess the feasibility of engineering work to reduce its visual impact.
Decisions about other shortlisted sites will be made in Spring 2015 following engagement with local stakeholders and further investigation of technical feasibility, economic, social, archaeological, environmental and heritage issues.