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Energy matters

Pylons and substation near Grenoble Road Pylons and substation near Grenoble Road Photo: © Jane Tomlinson

Pylons and power stations, cables, substations and solar farms - our addiction to electricity means that electricity infrastructure is inevitable. But that doesn't mean we have to have battalions of pylons marching across our landscapes.


Much of our electricity is transmitted via high voltage pylons and overhead lines. The transmission network, owned by the National Grid, currently consists of 22,000 high voltage pylons spaced across 4,375 miles (or 7,000 km) of overhead lines across England and Wales, mostly in the countryside.

A recent Government policy statement on the future development of the nation’s electricity transmission network proposes that even more high voltage pylons and overhead transmission lines are erected.

CPRE, working with with Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, Campaign for National Parks and The National Association for AONBs, is calling for a 'smart grid' to be developed, to make best use of existing energy resources and avoid harm to our most important areas of countryside. We are deeply concerned that plans outlined in a recent Government-backed report indicate that we could see many more pylons marching across the landscape in years to come. We want to see:

Underground cabling

An independent report shows that National Grid has greatly overestimated the costs of burying electricity cables underground. The report found that although under-grounding electricity cables is more expensive then overhead lines, the cost is just 4.5 to 5.7 times more expensive, not 10 to 25 times more expensive as has previously been quoted by National Grid.

We want power cables to be buried underground in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and evidence shows the public is willing to pay more for this to happen.

Solar farms

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have a role to play in increasing electricity generation from renewable energy sources. However, it is crucial to minimise their visual impact on the landscape and to avoid siting developments on prime agricultural land. Proposals for solar farms should include assessments of impacts on biodiversity, hydrology, archaeology, landscape and possible cumulative effects. The following should be considered before any planning application is made:

To reduce visual impact, solar farms should not be sited on sloping land or in areas with sensitive landscape features or heritage assets. Screening such as hedges or trees which are appropriate to the local landscape, should be planted and solar panels should be coated in a non-reflecting material to minimise glare. Bases should be easy to remove to permit restoration of the land and security fences should be of sympathetic design and screened. Care should be taken to eliminate light pollution and transformer stations and inverter cabinets should be unobtrusively sited and suitably shielded.

Solar farms should not be located on the best and most productive agricultural land; grades 1 and 2. Any solar farm development should be regarded as temporary. Land should be returned to agricultural use once the consent for solar use has terminated, and all equipment associated with the solar farm should be removed.

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