Countryside campaigners CPRE, in alliance with the Campaign for National Parks, Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (1) are calling today (Thursday) for the eventual removal of three of the largest and most unsightly lines of pylons in the country, stretching over 350 miles of countryside (2). The call comes as a new Government policy, due this month, is expected to support at least 12 new lines of overhead pylons across 170 miles of England and Wales which would add hundreds more pylons to the 22,000 high voltage pylons already owned by National Grid (3).
National Grid is considering new pylons in the Snowdonia National Park and a further three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) (4). National Parks and AONBs are the crown jewels of the landscapes of England and Wales. High voltage transmission lines owned by National Grid already directly intrude into six National Parks and 13 AONBs. Based on figures provided by National Grid, there are approximately 550 pylons in National Parks (5).
The alliance is calling for a long-term plan to dismantle three lines owned by National Grid that particularly affect our most important landscapes. The lines should be removed and then either replaced with underground or undersea cables, or re-routed. These lines run over 350 miles in total, typically involve pylons of around 50 metres in height spaced at five per mile of transmission line, and run
- across the Peak District National Park near Woodhead;
- from Dungeness to Exeter, running directly through National Parks in the New Forest and South Downs, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Devon and Dorset; and
- in a ring crossing two parts of the Snowdonia National Park east from Trawsfynydd and on the North Wales coast in an associated back-up route.
Removing these lines would remove the vast majority of pylons currently in National Parks. Replacing them with underground or undersea cables, or re-routing the lines, will need major upfront investment. We are calling for
- Only the most intrusive lines to be buried, less than 10% of the overall total mileage of the current network;
- the work to be carried out gradually over two to three decades; and
- a new role for the energy regulator, Ofgem (6), in encouraging the additional investment that will be necessary.
The alliance is also concerned about major new plans by National Grid for thousands more pylons in the countryside. It is urging National Grid and the new Infrastructure Planning Commission to ensure that, where new lines are unavoidable, that the least damaging options for development are taken (7).
Bill Bryson, CPRE’s President said: ‘Tens of thousands of pylons already march across our countryside. We don’t need to add still more – we can and should start to put a number of existing lines underground or under the sea. Today we challenge the Government, Ofgem and National Grid to start removing pylons from our most beautiful landscapes. If the work takes a decade or two then so be it. Future generations should be able to experience National Parks that are free of the largest pylons’.
Ruth Chambers, Deputy Director of CNP, said: ‘Electricity pylons can have a major impact on wild and beautiful landscapes. National Grid has made a welcome commitment to protecting the environment, early consultation and considering undergrounding lines in sensitive areas. The challenge for the next decade will be to build on this commitment and seize all possible opportunities to reduce the impact of large pylons on beautiful landscapes such as National Parks.’
Peter Ogden, Director of CPRW, said: ‘Years ago, some of Wales’ most cherished landscapes were the victims of the uninspired planning and insensitive planting of high voltage transmission lines. The new replacement programme provides the opportunity for the Government, Ofgem and National Grid to collectively undo these mistakes of the past. We trust that there is the ambition to find creative ways of restoring these landscapes to their former glory, rather than disfiguring them yet again and still further’.
Mike Taylor, Chief Executive of NAAONB, said: ‘We recognise the national need to improve the National Grid. But we also believe that this can be done without a serious long term impact on the AONBs. The Government, Ofgem and National Grid need to have the foresight to look long term and not go for a quick fix.’
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. CPRE is a charity which promotes the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of rural England. We advocate positive solutions for the long-term future of the countryside. Founded in 1926, we have 60,000 supporters and a branch in every county. President: Bill Bryson. Patron: Her Majesty The Queen. www.cpre.org.uk
CPRW is a charity which works throughout Wales to protect and enhance the landscapes and quality of life in rural areas. Since 1928, we have worked to increase awareness of the value and benefits of all landscapes and to encourage individuals to protect and become the stewards of their ‘local’ surroundings. President Glyn Davies, Patron Bryn Terfel www.cprw.org.uk.
The Campaign for National Parks (CNP) is the national charity that campaigns to protect and promote National Parks for the benefit and quiet enjoyment of all. CNP is the only national, voluntary sector organisation dedicated to National Parks. CNP is an umbrella of nearly 40 environmental and amenity organisations across England and Wales. CNP aims to give the voluntary sector a shared vision and voice on all National Park issues. www.cnp.org.uk.
The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) was formed in 1998 as an independent organisation to act on behalf of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England and Wales. Its membership is largely composed of representatives from local authorities whose boundaries include AONBs and who are concerned to improve their management and funding arrangements. The Association is administered by a Management Board and holds an Annual Conference, which provides an opportunity for those working in AONBs to join together and address issues of current concern, www.aonb.org.uk.
2. The figure of 350 miles is calculated by adding the distance from Dover to Exeter (244 miles by road, a similar distance to the Dungeness to Exeter transmission line) with that of the other sections we name in this release - approximately 100 additional miles in total.
3. On 5 November 2009 the Government was expected to publish a draft for consultation of its new National Policy Statement on electricity transmission networks. The statement is required under the Planning Act 2008 to form the basis of decisions on the future development of new electricity lines with a voltage of higher than 132 kilovolts (kV). National Grid is the international electricity and gas company that owns the high-voltage electricity transmission network in England and Wales and operates the system across Great Britain.
4. The information is taken from a document issued in December 2008 by National Grid, National Grid Input into UK Offshore Energy SEA: Impact on Onshore Electricity Transmission System, accessed at www.offshore-sea.org.uk/site/scripts/consultation_download_info.php?downloadID=238 on 19 February 2009. The development strategy advocated by National Grid is broadly endorsed by a March 2009 report issued by the Electricity Networks Strategy Group, a cross industry group jointly chaired by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem).
5.See map The National Grid and Designated Landscapes. Photographs of locations in Snowdonia and the South Downs where pylons run through National Parks are available from CPRE’s Press Office. The map also shows that in addition to running directly across a number of designated landscapes, electricity transmission lines are also visible from, though routed outside, a number of further designated landscapes, including the Dartmoor, Lake District, and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. According to figures provided by National Grid, there are 110 miles (or 177 km) of transmission lines in National Parks. The figure of 550 pylons is calculated by assuming an average of five pylons per mile of transmission line, a figure based on transmission lines shown in Ordnance Survey maps.
6. Ofgem is the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets. Ofgem seeks to protect gas and electricity consumers by promoting competition, wherever appropriate, and by regulating the monopoly companies which run the gas and electricity networks (www.ofgem.gov.uk/About%20us/Pages/AboutUsPage.aspx).
7. For more details of the 12 schemes being proposed by National Grid see www.cpre.org.uk/news/view/588. The Infrastructure Planning Commission (http://infrastructure.independent.gov.uk) will examine and make decisions on these projects in accordance with both the final National Policy Statement on electricity transmission networks and its judgement of the impacts of schemes on the local environment.