The BMC joins the chorus of concern at National Grid proposals to build pylons the size of Nelson’s Column metres from the boundary of the Lake District National Park – and encourages you to do the same.
Cumbria is a county of two halves. The Lake District contains the pastoral patchwork landscape, the rugged rural sensibility and the sublime Romantic visions; but the coastline bordering it, thanks to Sellafield and the shipyards of Barrow, is often associated with a very different purpose: nuclear energy and nuclear armoury.
Sometimes these two contrasting hemispheres overlap, as in the case of the North West Coast Connections scheme. Designed to connect the proposed new nuclear power station at Moorside, currently planned to come online in 2024, with the national electricity grid, the plans would see a major power line running through and around the Lake District National Park.
With the prospect of this power line has come the threat of giant pylons. The 400kV cables would require pylons around the same height as Nelson’s Column if they were conveyed overhead, twice the height of pylons currently in the area.
The threat this potentially poses to the Lake District landscape has given rise to opposition campaigns like Power Without Pylons and Friends of the Lake District’s ‘Say No to Pylons in the Lake District’ campaign, which the BMC backs.
In October, anti-pylon campaigners welcomed a key part of new proposals by National Grid, which stated their intention to route the lines underground when they pass within the Lake District National Park, as well as an intention to remove the existing pylons that form part of the current line.
But the threat to the wider Lake District landscape has not passed. National Grid’s current proposals would still see the line re-emerge above ground as soon as it leaves the boundary of the national park, leading to giant pylons hugging the edge of the Lake District to within tens of metres for at least eight miles.
Existing pylons south of Foxfield. The proposed new ones would be twice the height. Photo: FOTLD
The line of pylons will also run right across the top of the Duddon Estuary, interrupting views both towards and from the high fells of the Lake District.
Renowned author Bill Bryson, also a countryside campaigner and patron of Friends of the Lake District, said: "Britain's countryside doesn't stop being glorious at the boundaries of its national parks. It is beautiful - and vulnerable - nearly everywhere, and should be respected and cherished wherever it enhances a landscape. It would be a tragedy to lose these exquisite views just for the sake of one company's bottom line."
In the current consultation documents, National Grid has put forward two alternative routing solutions which would remove the need to take the power cables up the Whicham Valley and around the Duddon Estuary.
Kate Willshaw, Policy Officer at Friends of the Lake District, said: “National Grid should adopt an alternative route solution to protect views into and out of the Lake District. The first – and in our mind best – option is to put the cables offshore between Kirksanton on the Cumbrian coast and the Fylde Peninsula in Lancashire.
“National Grid’s current consultation document has dismissed this option on cost grounds. However, the proposal is only 7% more expensive than current proposals. We consider that this is a price worth paying for the protection of the Lake District.”
A price worth paying
National Grid says their current proposals are the best compromise between preserving the landscape and keeping the cost to the taxpayer down. But we think public concern over the visual impact of pylons, coupled with the benefits beautiful landscapes bring to the health, wellbeing and culture of our society, provide ample justification for the extra cost of routing the cables underground in the vicinity of the Lake District.
Sun setting over Duddon Estuary - not in the national park, but still beautiful. Photo: Rich Hannam
In recent years National Grid has recognised the visual impact of pylons and taken very welcome steps to reduce it, committing £500 million to bury lines underground in national parks and AONBs – in Dorset, the New Forest, the Peak District and Snowdonia.
But precious landscapes do not conform to simple administrative boundaries. The Lake District is part of a broader geographical setting. If it is deemed necessary to bury pylons on one side of the national park boundary, why does it become acceptable a matter of metres away?
Andy Tickle, a member of the BMC’s Access Management Group, as well as director of Friends of the Peak District (part of the Campaign to Protect Rural England), said: “Since they started in the 1950s, pylon routes have been carefully planned to minimise landscape impacts, especially in and around National Parks. But we are in an era where they is a strong public desire for undergrounding of energy infrastructure, evidenced by the £500 million allocated by the market regulator, OFGEM, for removing pylons in National Parks and AONBs.
“Recent research by CPRE, the Campaign for National Parks and the National Trust has also demonstrated the need to strengthen the protection for national parks, and in particular not causing damage to the setting of our finest landscapes. This is another strong reason why additional pylons just outside the Lake District should not happen.”
The complexities of balancing important development with the landscape are thrown into especially sharp relief in the west of Cumbria, where England’s most iconic mountain landscape meets some of its most potentially significant future energy infrastructure. The outcome of this project could be seen a significant precedent for the future.
We urge National Grid to adopt an alternative solution which does not sacrifice part of a landscape millions treasure on the altar of energy.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Write to National Grid
It is not too late to influence National Grid’s final proposals. If you are concerned about the impact of pylons on the Lake District, we encourage you to write to National Grid. More information on how to do this is available on Friends of the Lake District’s website here.
The consultation closes on January 6 2017.
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