As part of a national initiative arising out of the re-tendering process associated with the management and maintenance of the National Grid electricity transmission network, Ofgem and National Grid agreed a new set of price controls and incentives for the period covering 2013 to 2021.
On the back of a customer willingness to pay study, and in seeking to deliver on their environmental obligations, £500m has been set aside to mitigate the visual impact of existing electricity infrastructure in nationally protected landscapes such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Although the eight-year contract period might seem like a long time, given the nature and technical difficulty of the work involved the National Grid Visual Impact Provision project has started at pace.
Following the establishment of a Stakeholder Advisory Group in April 2014, the Visual Impact Provision project methodology and timeline have been set and the potential candidate areas identified.
The parameters for the project have also been set with the Stakeholder Advisory Group agreeing that the fund could be used for:
- Landscaping enhancements;
- Screening substations or overhead lines from public viewpoints;
- Re-routing existing lines;
- Replacement of existing overhead lines with underground cables;
- Innovative painting techniques to reduce pylons’ visual impact;
- Initiatives in National Park or AONB management plans that mitigate the impact of our electricity infrastructure;
- Other visual impact measures recommended by stakeholder.
As can be seen from the adjacent map, the effect of National Grid transmission lines on the landscape character and views of Northumberland National Park are confined to two separate lines.
One passes adjacent to the southern edge of the National Park and runs from Newcastle through the Tyne Valley west to Carlisle, while another runs, again from Newcastle, north along the western edge of the National Park north to Coldstream and beyond.
Stage two of the project involved undertaking a Landscape Visual Impact Assessment process for each transmission line that passes within and in four cases for lines that pass in close proximity to, a protected landscape.
The Landscape Visual Impact Assessment work of all the transmission lines within the Visual Impact Provision project was undertaken during the summer of 2014.
From this, a priority list of infrastructure has been identified within four National Parks and four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and these specific electricity transmission lines will be taken forward for further analysis.
With respect to the lines affecting Northumberland National Park, the line running from Newcastle to Wooler was deemed to have a moderate effect upon the National Park, specifically in the Ilderton and Roddam area, while the line passing through the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site was also deemed to have a moderate effect upon the landscape character and views of the National Park, specifically in the Grindon area.
The effect of the line in just north of Haltwhistle was thought to be limited. As a result of this assessment, these two lines are not a top priority to have undergrounded as their effect upon the National Park landscape is deemed to be minimal.
However, work will continue over the next few years to see whether other mitigation measures might be used to minimise the effect that these lines have on the landscape character and views both into and out from the Northumberland National Park.
If you would like to know more about the undergrounding cables project please contact the National Park Landscape and Forestry Officer on 01434 611539 or e-mail [email protected]