Opinion: Say No To Pylons In The Lake District

© UKC Articles

National Grid want to build a huge new pylon line through the southern Lake District. At the same time they are making £500million available to bury​ existing power lines in other National Parks. Landscape conservation group Friends of the Lake District have launched a campaign for Lakeland to be offered the same level of protection.

One of our most important and well-loved landscapes is under threat from the largest planned electricity infrastructure project in the UK; National Grid’s North West Coast Connections (NWCC) project. National Grid wants to run a 400kV powerline using 50m tall pylons through 24km of the Lake District National Park and alongside the boundary for a further 18km.

Sun setting over Duddon Estuary with Scafell and The Old Man of Coniston in the background
© The Bantam

This means 126 of these huge structures blighting the western fringes of the Lake District, a candidate World Heritage Site, beloved of Wordsworth, Wainwright and millions of visitors, walkers and residents alike.

The scale of these pylons would impact on views across the western Lake District, the only place in England where mountains meet the sea.  These will include views from Scafell Pike, from the coast up the Esk Valley, the Duddon fells and any number of iconic walking routes. We should be in no doubt that if these pylons go up, they’ll be here for the duration of all of our lifetimes.

"It seems nonsensical to be pursuing a policy to bury cables in one National Park while erecting 24km of 50m pylons in another"

A failure to see the bigger picture is the most upsetting aspect of these proposals. The onshore infrastructure route with pylons is being pursued at the same time as the ink dries on the Lake District's bid for World Heritage Status.

The government has just made a decision on the Navitus offshore windfarm near the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The wind farm is 15 kilometres our at sea, but the application was refused by the government on the basis that it would have an impact on the World Heritage Site’s landscape and public enjoyment. This would seem to be quite pertinent for the NWCC project in light of the Lake District’s World Heritage Site bid. In addition, Ravenglass is already part of a World Heritage Site (Frontiers of the Roman Empire) and will be badly damaged whether the powerlines go overhead and affect the views or underground and impact on the internationally important archaeology.

Pylons south of Foxfield  © Friends of the Lake District
Pylons south of Foxfield
© Friends of the Lake District

National Grid has also chosen this moment to announce the Visual Impact Provision (VIP) Project, £500m of funding to put the services and connections provided by existing overhead lines and pylons in National Parks and AONBs underground.

According to National Grid, the Visual Impact Provision project “represents a major opportunity to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and environmental heritage within our most protected landscapes".

While it is laudable that this is being done in other National Parks, why is the Lake District not being afforded similar consideration? It seems nonsensical to be pursuing a policy to bury cables in one National Park while erecting 24km of 50m pylons in another. Are some National Parks more equal than others?

National Grid is currently refusing to discuss underground mitigation for the line installation in the west of the Lake District and has put forward only different pylon line routes within the National Park as ‘mitigation’.

"These pylons would impact on views across the western Lake District, the only place in England where mountains meet the sea"

We’ve launched a campaign, Say No to Pylons in the Lake District, to rally support and make the case for putting these power cables underground.

Pylon comparison

Our campaign is a heartfelt call for some rational thinking and some joined up policy. Removing pylons in one national park and erecting new ones in another in the middle of a bid for World Heritage status is clearly a failure to see the bigger picture.

We’re always keen to stress that we’re not against the infrastructure project itself. It will provide vital employment opportunities and much needed investment for the west of Cumbria. There is an opportunity for everybody to benefit if we can persuade Government and the National Grid that they can achieve the connection of the power station without compromising the natural beauty of the Lake District.

It does actually bode well for us as it’s the outcome we would want.

This is not a new issue or a novel concept. We were lobbying to put power lines underground at a conference we organised in 1949. This conference and the public pressure exerted led to the agreement that means many power lines in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) all over the country are and will continue to be put underground.

We’re certainly not shy about repeating ourselves and renewing our call for undergrounding of powerlines.

Our desire to protect the Lake District landscape for future generations was the catalyst for the formation of Friends of the Lake District in 1934 and it’s the reason why we continue to campaign against proposals which threaten our National Park today.

So here we are again, still campaigning on behalf of over 6000 of our members to have our voice heard and for rationality to win out; after all the Lake District National Park contains some of the very best scenery in England and therefore it should be strenuously protected. The support of the general public and partners including the Open Spaces Society, Campaign for National Parks and the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) will provide us with all the motivation we need.



UKH Articles and Gear Reviews by Chris James - Friends of the Lake District

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