More than 80 people climbed a Lake District hill to protest proposals to build a line of giant pylons on the edge of one of the UK’s most treasured landscapes.
It’s the only place in England where mountains and the sea meet, on the edge of the UK’s most visited national park. But it could be dominated by pylons almost as high as Nelson’s Column.
The shadow cast by the prospect of part of the Lake District being dwarfed by these giant structures has prompted a groundswell of protest. In April more than 80 people climbed Black Combe, a prominent mountain close to the Cumbrian coast, to voice their frustrations and show supporters the potential impact of the plans.
Local campaign group Power Without Pylons and Friends of the Lake District joined forces to organise the walk as part of their attempts to pressurise National Grid to drop plans for a procession of 50 metre high pylons skirting and passing through the western part of the Lake District National Park.
Twice the height
The electricity company wants to connect the proposed Moorside nuclear power station near Sellafield to the UK electricity grid, and is currently proposing to do this with a 15 mile (24 kilometre) line of pylons. The route would follow an existing line of pylons but the new structures would be twice the height.
Following an earlier consultation in 2014, National Grid dismissed an option to put the connection offshore, despite strong support from responders. Campaigners are also pressing National Grid to reconsider this option.
Graham Barron, Power Without Pylons secretary and BMC member, said: “To take the connection offshore and out of sight would add more cost to the project but to carry out adequate mitigation along the whole onshore route would be even more costly.
“It doesn’t make sense for National Grid to be paid £500m to remove pylons in other national parks when they’re planning to put up new bigger ones in the Lake District. Coincidentally, the cost difference between the unmitigated onshore option and offshore is around £500m – equivalent to about 50 pence on the average household annual electricity bill.
“We think that’s a small price to pay to protect this outstanding area.”
If the onshore option were to go ahead, protesters are calling for the cables to be placed underground and under the Duddon Estuary instead of using pylons. They say National Grid has so far only considered placing about 1.2 miles (two kilometres) of the route underground near the historic village of Ravenglass.
However, a spokesperson for National Grid said: "We have not yet made a final decision on how and where the new connection will be built within the Lake District National Park.
"However, we are continuing our discussions with key bodies about minimising the impact of our proposals and this will include considering placing sections of the connection underground over and above the 2km recently speculated about in a number of national newspaper articles.
"We will share our detailed proposals for the connection as part of a formal public consultation that will take place later this year when we’ll be asking people for their views on the exact path the new connection will take along its entire route, the equipment used to build it and the methods which can be used to reduce its impact.
Campaigners say they are heartened by National Grid’s recent announcement that it is to postpone the next stage of its consultation until later in the year.
They say its ecision to delay the consultation follows recent national media coverage of the 'Say No to Pylons in the Lake District' campaign and may be an indication that the efforts of campaigners and an increasing level of public support and awareness are causing the energy supplier to rethink its plans.
The BMC is a supporter of the campaign, which is being coordinated by Friends of the Lake District.
EDIT: This article was edited on 10.6.16 to correct the date of the walk and include a comment from National Grid.
SUPPORT: Say No to Pylons in the Lake District on the Friends of the Lake District website here.
SIGN: a petition against the plans visit 38 Degrees here.
MORE: about Power Without Pylons or to become a supporter visit their website or email them.
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