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Monday, March 13, 2017

Why are you putting the connection underground in the Lake District, but overhead in North Wales?

by Jacqui Fenn, senior consents officer  

A number of people have asked us about our work in the North West of England. In particular, we’ve been asked why we’re proposing to put cables under the ground in the Lake District National Park while using pylons in Anglesey and Gwynedd. 

Firstly, let me assure you that our approach in England and Wales is the same.

So what are the factors that influence this approach?

When developing new connections, we use the same policy based approach regardless of where we are in the UK – whether it’s Anglesey, Cumbria or Somerset (where we’re planning to connect Hinkley Point nuclear power station). When we start any project, we look at a range of options for making the connection, including overhead, underground and, where appropriate, subsea. We also look at considerations such as designations like National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the potential effects our equipment may have in these sensitive areas.  Most projects are a mix of technologies and we typically use underground connections where there are no options to sensitively route an overhead line. 

Putting cables underground needs to be considered very carefully. It is a more technically complex and costly option. The construction of open trenches or a tunnel for underground cables is also likely to be more disruptive than the installation of overhead lines, which may result in significant environmental or socio-economic effects. Some temporary and some permanent.  Recognising the importance of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks, we typically only put cables underground in these areas. 

The North West Coast Connections project is about 164km and we’re proposing to put 23.4km of this underground where it passes through the Lake District National Park. We’re also proposing a tunnel under Morecambe Bay, so that we avoid the southern part of the national park and nearby AONBs. We’re planning to make the rest of the connection, about 119km, as overhead line.

In a similar way in Somerset, the Hinkley Point Connection Project will put around 8km of its connection underground through the Mendip Hills AONB while the rest of the connection will be made up of 47km of overhead line.

For our work in North Wales, we’re putting about 4km of our 35km connection beneath the Menai Strait and the Anglesey AONB close to the coast. In fact, because of other considerations in that area, for example the Registered Parks and Gardens, our proposals extend inland for a distance beyond the AONB.

For all projects our proposals will help to protect views in areas that are highly valued by designation and both tourists and local people.  

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