FEARS that the attractive rural landscape of the Bowland Fells, the north Pennines and the Lake District, will be marred by giant new pylons have been voiced by ex MP Ken Hind, a leading Ribble Valley councillor.
But the power company planning the ambitious project to link proposed new nuclear power stations at Sellafield and Heysham into the national grid system says although there has been preliminary consulation, the worries are premature as the suggested routes have not yet been drawn.
But Coun Hind is urging councils, environmentalists and others to get ready for battle in advance of the public consultation later this year.
He says new pylons and cables will stretch from the Lake District, through north Lancashire and on to the Ribble Valley and Padiham.
He said: “The expected route is believed by opponents to pass through the Hodder and Ribble valleys from Quernmore, Abbeystead through a corridor including the Trough of Bowland, Hareden, Dunsop Bridge, Whitewell, Cowark, Bashall Eaves, Great Mitton, Whalley, Billington and Read to Padiham.
“If these pylons are built this will be environmental vandalism,a large ugly slash through some of the areas of outstanding natural beauty in Lancashire.’’
The National Grid has confirmed it has been asked to provide connections to a number of new generators in Cumbria and Lancashire, though has yet to say where the route, which will include overhead transmission power lines, underground cables and new substations, might be.
Mr Hind wants councils, the NFU, and other lobby groups along the possible route to get ready for public consultation.
He said: “The National Grid is currently researching technical and environmental information to help it assess how connections might be built, prior to a full public consultation at the end of this year.
“The company will seek to explain the rationale behind the identification of the options to be considered and seek the views and opinions of local residents, community groups, elected representatives and statutory bodies. We should be ready to respond.
‘’Ribble Valley Council, Lancashire County Council, town and parish councils, and MPs, should prepare to make representations on these proposals to bring 200 miles of new electricity cabling planned within the next decade through some of the loveliest parts of Lancashire.
“We should make representations in response to press for these cables to be buried underground if they are to pass through areas of natural beauty as seems very likely.
“The extra cost is justified in protecting the rural nature of the Ribble Valley and it’s beautiful scenery.
‘’This means the community combining in a campaign with pressure groups like the CPRE , Ramblers Association, NFU, rural protection groups and the tourist industry to protect the green and rural character of our area.
National Grid spokeswoman Jeanette Unsworth said: “We’re in the very early stages of looking at the potential routes for new overhead lines or cables to connect the proposed new nuclear power stations at Sellafield and Heysham into the national grid system.
“We have been in discussions with all our statutory consultees including local authority planners, Natural England and CPRE to name but a few for nearly two years now and will be taking into account their views in deciding on the connection options we take forward to public consultation.”
The public consultation will begin this autumn and viable alternative options suggested will be seriously considered.
The final decision on the project will be taken by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (or its replacement – the Major Infrastructure Unit).