GIANT pylons could be built along the A6 corridor close to Garstang and skirting the Forest of Bowland to power a new generation of nuclear power stations.
Fears have been expressed this week that a vast network of new pylons could be erected to connect power stations at Heysham and Sellafield, as well as offshire wind farms, to the national grid over the next 10 years.
National Grid, the power company planning the project, insists no detailed plans or routes have been agreed.
But it emerged this week that of five routes currently being considered, three would involve connecting via on-shore pylons that could be built along a route broadly following the A6 from Heysham and then cutting across north of Preston and skirting Longridge to an existing sub-station in the Ribble Valley.
The two other routes would involve burying the cables, including under Morecambe Bay, although this is understood to be much more expensive, costing around £22m per kilometre compared to £1.8m per kilometre for overhead cables.
Wyre MP Ben Wallace has already raised concerns. He said this week: “I am worried that Lancashire will be scarred forever by power companies taking an easy option at the expense of the environment and communities they represent.’’
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver says he recognises the juggling act facing local authorities who will be consulted about the plans.
One one hand, the plans to site new ‘next generation’ nuclear power stations at Heysham and Sellafield – as part of a £22bn national scheme to meet growing energy demands – will bring a welcome boost for business and generate new jobs.
The challenge for council consultees will be to scrutinise all the route options and weigh up the positives and negatives, says Coun Driver.
“We will need to be satisfied the route chosen is sensitive towards houses and areas of natural beauty,” he said.
“But we recognise there is a cost element. There will have to be a balancing act.
“There will be significant benefits for Lancashire – with the power station at Heysham, it will bring a lot of jobs and benefits for employers and businesses.
“But you’ve got to balance that with the cost and the intrusion element.
“It’s something we are looking at very closely.’’
Ribble Valley Coun Ken Hind is spearheading a campaign against routing pylons along the outskirts of the Forest of Bowland.
He said: “You can only destroy the countryside once – there’s no coming back from that,” he warns. “I understand we need to keep the lights on and we have to find a way to get power from the power stations at Heysham and Sellafield to urban centres.
“But the answer isn’t putting giant pylons through some of the most stunning countryside in the country.’’
Juan Murray, planning officer for the Lancashire branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), echoes those concerns.
“National Grid is still consulting on what option to take but we are certainly concerned, primarily for Forest of Bowland,” he says.
Preliminary work on the pylons plans for Lancashire and Cumbria have been underway for two years now, with National Grid speaking to stakeholders including councils, the National Park Authority, the Environment Agency and Natural England, to work out proposed routes.
Public consultation will take place later this year. Robert Powell, a project manager at National Grid, says: “Most people will be aware of the energy challenge Britain faces and the fact that a number of UK power stations are due to close over the next few years and be replaced by new, low-carbon electricity generation including nuclear and wind power.
“National Grid had been asked to provide up to nine new connections to the national electricity network from potential providers in Cumbria and Lancashire, including offshore wind farms and the proposed new nuclear power stations close to Sellafield and Heysham.
“Our initial job is to work out how and where to re-inforce the electricity transmission network to provide these connections, which will need new infrastructure.
“This will inform our choice of options to take to wider public consultation.”