As the National Grid consults on options for connecting electricity in the Lake District, National Trust External Affairs Manager Jo Caldwell outlines our view on the proposals and the wider implications for National Parks and other special places within our care.
In the past few years, we’ve engaged as a stakeholder in the National Grid North West Coast Connections Project, which aims to connect and export electricity generated at the new nuclear power station that NuGen is proposing to build at Moorside in West Cumbria.
Following consultation in 2014 on their preferred options for the route, on 28 October National Grid launched a consultation on the latest version of their proposals, including detailed route design and mitigation. This will probably be the last chance to comment on the scheme before a Development Consent Order is submitted to the Secretary of State, expected in late 2017.
To ensure the electricity supply is secure, National Grid proposes to run two circuits north and two circuits south of Moorside. To the south, it will run from Moorside to Roosecote, with the cables taken through a tunnel under Morecambe Bay to Heysham. National Grid has been exploring a range of technologies to determine which are most suitable, including 50m pylons, underground cables and tunnels.
Where the cables run through National Park, National Grid is proposing to lay them underground as well as take down the existing pylons on the route, thereby removing visual intrusion. The North circuit will largely run via large overhead power cables running close to the existing cabling, which will be taken down.
The Lake District is a special place. It plays a unique role in the cultural and natural heritage of this country and receives 15 million visits each year. Its significance is recognised in its status as a National Park, and, we hope, will lead to it being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2017. So it’s always been our strong view that National Grid needs to avoid any visual and environmental impacts on the Lake District and other such special places.
This view underpinned our response to earlier consultations and we’ve engaged really positively with the Grid through workshops and site visits, encouraging them to consider mitigation and alternative technologies where appropriate.
We very much welcome the latest proposal to put circuits underground within the National Park and to rationalise overhead cables elsewhere. We recognise and welcome the efforts the Grid has taken to consult actively with stakeholders throughout the process and to identify an appropriate solution for this very important and much loved place.
Whilst we welcome that the significance of the National Park has been recognised, we are concerned that, based on these proposals, there may be visual impacts on the setting of the National Park.
National Grid proposes using large pylons just outside the southern boundary of the National Park in areas including the Whicham Valley and Duddon Mosses Special Area of Conservation. These landscapes complement the Lake District, often featuring views into and out from the National Park, and act as its setting, enhancing the Lake District’s special qualities.
We will carefully assess the information in the consultation material to understand and respond to its implications, as well as identifying any impacts on National Trust land. This is a critical opportunity to make sure we’re protecting and enhancing the unique and special landscapes of this country for decades to come.
If you want to find out more about the consultation and take part, see www.northwestcoastconnections.com.
Jo Caldwell is External Affairs Manager for the North at the National Trust.