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The tale of the vanishing pylons

Pylons are a regular sight as we walk around the UK’s countryside, carrying essential power to homes and businesses. Their impact does cause controversy however, especially in those areas classified as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). These areas are designated for conservation and also to provide the country’s ‘breathing spaces’ for enjoyment by the public. Particularly in National Parks, development is carefully controlled to protect the scenic beauty of the area. Some consider pylons to have a detrimental effect on this beauty.


Good news then from National Grid.  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.


Twelve sections of high voltage lines in eight AONBs and National Parks have been shortlisted as having the most significant landscape and visual impact, following an independent study overseen by leading landscape expert Professor Carys Swanwick. The study assessed 571 km of National Grid’s electricity 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-routing and screening from key public viewpoints of the lines.

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.”

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. 

So don’t be surprised if pylons begin to disappear before your eyes in the coming years...

23 November 2014  

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