National Grid unveils plans to get rid of eyesore pylons

Pylon in Snowdonia

The National Grid has announced plans to get rid of electricity pylons in some of the country's most beautiful landscapes, but it's estimated that it could cost a whopping £7 million to remove each structure.

Following a new study by landscape expert Professor Carys Swanwick, twelve sections of high voltage lines in eight Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks have been shortlisted for removal.

They will be replaced by underground lines by 2021 as part of a £500 million project.

But given the cost, that fund will only be sufficient to remove 65 pylons - fewer than 1 in 20 of the 1,500 pylons currently in areas of outstanding natural beauty, according to The Times.

Which areas will be targeted?

The areas affected are the Brecon Beacons National Park; Dorset AONB; High Weald AONB; the New Forest National Park; North Wessex Downs AONB; the Peak District National Park; Snowdonia National Park and Tamar Valley AONB. National Grid also plans to use part of the money for smaller, local improvement projects.

"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," says George Mayhew, the National Grid representative on the project Stakeholder Advisory Group.

An advisory group 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 decide which lines should be first to go.

The group has already recommended taking a closer look at a section of overhead line which crosses the River Tamar in the Tamar Valley AONB, and decisions on other areas will be made next spring.

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"We are really pleased that the opportunity for more pylon free views in National Parks has moved a step closer with this announcement," says Julian Woolford, chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks.

"Identifying the sections of line with the most significant visual impact is an important step in the process. With National Grid and other stakeholders, we look forward to ensuring the project continues to make good progress."

However, with 7% of the National Grid network running through AONBs and National Parks, even £500 million won't go very far: it costs around £35 million to put a mile of cabling underground. And customers will have to carry the cost, with the project expected to add around 22p a year to the average bill.

And not everybody is happy, with many areas of great beauty left out in the cold. While pylons may be set for removal in some areas, they are about to appear in others, with plans for a new nuclear power station near Sellafield expected to lead to the building of a network of 50m-high pylons through the edge of the Lake District. The Friends of the Lake District campaign group is urging people to lobby for a different route.

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