The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) cheered today’s announcement by the energy regulator Ofgem  that it will allow up to £500 million, over the eight years from 2013 to 2021, to be spent on burying existing National Grid transmission lines in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). National Grid has also undertaken to avoid running new 50 metre high pylons through our finest landscapes where possible. This is welcome progress as pylons currently cross these landscapes in a number of locations, including:
- Longdendale in the Peak District;
- The New Forest National Park west of Southampton and towards Verwood in Dorset;
- The South Downs National Park, particularly (amongst other places) around Petersfield; and
- Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Gloucestershire (the Cotswolds) and Oxfordshire (the North Wessex Downs)
The allowance, created and increased following two years of pressure led by CPRE, will not cover the full expense of burying all these lines underground but it could still do much to reinforce an existing Ofgem scheme with power distribution companies, introduced following work by Friends of the Lake District. This has resulted to date in 223 km of smaller, lower voltage overhead electricity lines being removed.
National Grid is proposing new lines at a number of locations, including Somerset and Suffolk. These are mostly proposed to run overhead although in more recent months National Grid has indicated that it will bury these lines underground in National Parks and AONBs. The Ofgem document states that the new allowance will apply to existing lines rather than the new lines being proposed in these areas. MPs have a chance, with the second reading of the Energy Bill on Wednesday, to press for further reform.
Paul Miner, Senior Planning Campaigner for CPRE, says:
‘This is a significant step towards ridding our most precious landscapes of the blight of 50 metre high pylons.
'These improvements will take time but it is encouraging to see National Grid willing to change. We’ll be looking for it to spend the allowance that it has been given, but to make a bigger impact it needs to move away from a business model based on new overhead connections and towards running any necessary new lines underground as a matter of course’.
Notes to Editors  RIIO-T1: Final Proposals for National Grid Electricity Transmission and National Grid Gas Final decision – Overview document, published 17 December 2012 at www.ofgem.gov.uk.