10 Jan 2018
A project to remove an 8km section of high voltage overhead transmission line in the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and bury the electric power lines underground has moved a step closer, following the submission of a planning application.
The scheme aims to enhance the landscape near the villages of Martinstown and Winterbourne Abbas, as part of National Grid’s Visual Impact Provision (VIP) project* to reduce the visual impact of existing high voltage power lines in protected areas across England and Wales.
The company has submitted the application to West Dorset District Council and is seeking permission to remove 8.25km of overhead line and 22 pylons and replace it with underground cables. The proposal also includes the construction of two new Sealing End Compounds which are required to connect the new underground cables to the remaining existing overhead electricity line.
Over the past three years National Grid has explored a range of potential underground routes for the cables, and plans have been refined with the input of local experts including Historic England, Natural England and the Dorset County Archaeologist, together with feedback from the local community in June 2016 and July 2017.
The section of line runs north to south close to the villages of Winterbourne Abbas, Martinstown, Winterbourne Steepleton and Friar Waddon. It can also be seen from the National Trust’s Hardy Monument. It was chosen following an extensive landscape assessment overseen by landscape expert Professor Carys Swanwick from the University of Sheffield. Over 570km of line was assessed and the sections with the most significant landscape and visual impact identified. An independent Stakeholder Advisory Group comprised of organisations dedicated to protecting landscapes in England and Wales then decided to prioritise four projects in 2015 in the Dorset AONB, the New Forest, Peak District and Snowdonia National Parks.
National Grid has worked closely with local organisations including the Dorset AONB Partnership, Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council, Historic England and Natural England to identify any potential environmental, archaeological and land issues associated with the proposed underground route corridor.
Chris Baines, chair of the VIP project’s independent Stakeholder Advisory Group said: “By working with a range of stakeholders at a national and local level, we have a major opportunity to preserve and enhance this beautiful south Dorset landscape. 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 Dorset.
“The Dorset project is the first of four proposed major projects under the VIP scheme and represents a world first. This is the first time that high voltage overhead transmission lines have been removed purely to reduce their visual impact and enhance a beautiful landscape.”
Michelle Clark, National Grid VIP Project Manager said: “This is a unique stakeholder-driven project, and it represents a major opportunity to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Dorset AONB landscape.
“The planning application is a significant milestone and in developing the detailed plans for the proposed underground route corridor, we have taken on board advice from a variety of local experts and organisations, as well as the local community in the nearby villages. Our application has been carefully considered and sets out how we intend to manage the construction process throughout this major engineering project to keep any impact to a minimum.”
West Dorset District Council is in the process of registering the application and will determine the planning application by Summer 2018. If approved construction on the project would commence on site in 2019 with construction complete and the pylons removed by 2022.