Plans to reduce the visual impact of electricity infrastructure in nationally protected landscapes across England and Wales are gathering momentum, following a new study by National Grid.
A section of overhead line in the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which crosses the River Tamar near Weir Quay has been identified as having a significant landscape and visual impact.
It is one of twelve sections of high voltage lines in eight Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks that have been shortlisted following an independent study overseen by leading landscape expert Professor Carys Swanwick.
The study assessed 571 km of National Grid’s transmission lines in England and Wales’s most treasured landscapes. It forms part of the Visual Impact Provision project, a major initiative to reduce the visual impact of existing transmission lines in protected areas.
The project will make use of a £500 million allowance made available by Ofgem* until 2021.
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
Part of the £500 million allowance will be used by National Grid to mitigate the visual impact of sections of high voltage overhead lines in some of these locations. A range of engineering measures could be implemented including the replacement of existing overhead lines with underground cables, the re-routeing of existing lines, through to the screening of substations or overhead lines from public viewpoints.
National Grid is now planning to assess the feasibility of engineering work to reduce the visual impact of the line crossing the River Tamar and will be seeking the views of local people and stakeholders.
A decision about the transmission line in the Tamar Valley and 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.
George Mayhew, National Grid representative on the project Stakeholder Advisory Group, comments: “National Grid’s electricity network is vital to our way of life, but this project will help reduce its impact on some of our most treasured landscapes. At the heart of the project is collaboration between National Grid, those organisations tasked with protecting Britain’s treasured areas and the people who live in and visit these landscapes.”
Cllr Neil Burden, Chair of the Tamar Valley AONB Partnership said: “We are very pleased that the Tamar Valley AONB is the highest priority nationally to start this feasibility process of reducing the visual impact of overhead power lines – with the breathtaking river views and the impact of the pylons and lines, this wasn’t a surprise to us!
“The River Tamar is one of the most heavily designated and important areas straddling parts of both Cornwall and Devon and is very special to local people and visitors alike. We look forward to helping National Grid with its stakeholder engagement and feasibility study over the next few months.”
Howard Sutcliffe, CEO of National Association for AONBs, says, “People are passionate about AONBs and care deeply about their future so we are delighted to be working with National Grid on their VIP Project. AONB partnerships are trusted convenors who make things happen, translating vision and national policy into local action and we look forward to being involved in the positive changes that will take place over the next seven years.”
A Stakeholder Advisory Group comprising organisations including the Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Campaign to Protect Rural Wales, English Heritage, Cadw, 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.
National Grid is also set to use part of the £500 million allocation for smaller localised visual improvement projects which can be accessed by all AONBs and National Parks with existing National Grid electricity infrastructure.
Set to be launched in 2015, this landscape enhancement initiative has an ambition to provide up to £24 million over six years. The aim will be to reduce the visual impact of National Grid’s existing infrastructure and improve the related visual quality of the landscape.
More information about the Visual Impact Provision project can be found at: www.nationalgrid.com/vip