£1million earmarked to remove overhead power lines from picturesque valley
PUBLISHED: 09:02 08 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:49 08 January 2019
Project aims to take down 6½ kilometres of overhead lines in the Box Valley and run them underground.
The scheme is in its early stages but it is hoped it will eventually bring major enhancements to the landscape between the popular tourist villages of Stoke by Nayland and Polstead.
So far, the project has received stage 1 approval from the regional steering group chaired by Natural England, which means its feasibility has been assessed by electricity distributor UK Power Networks, which will ultimately carry out the work.
The next stage will involve formalising the principle agreements with landowners and undertaking ecological and archaeological assessments before the work can start.
The project is located within the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and much of the work with the landowners will be overseen by AONB project officer Carole Cadman, who said she is in the process of writing to them and that she “looked forward” to working with the landowners.
She added: “The Box Valley is arguably one of the most picturesque tributaries in the Stour Valley and the case for removing the overhead lines has been put forward because of the impact they have on the different types of landscapes there.
“There is the river running through the valley and the rolling valley sides have far-reaching views; the area is well-visited and located on the Stour Valley Path and St Edmunds Way recreational walking routes; while both villages attract visitors to their pubs and holiday cottages.”
Ms Cadman said, depending on getting the necessary permissions, it would be several years before work to place the cables underground would start.
Funding for the project is coming from Ofgem, the electricity regulator, which offers electricity network operators a special allowance to replace overhead lines with underground cables where possible, to enhance the appearance of protected landscapes in AONBS and National Parks.
Over the past decade, 22 miles of overhead power lines have been removed across the Dedham Vale and Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONBs through a process called undergrounding. In the Dedham Vale AONB locations where overhead lines have been removed include from between East Bergholt and Dedham and on land at nearby Tendring Hall Park.
Ms Cadman said when and if the work began in the Box Valley there will be some disruption while lines running both lengthways and across the valley are removed but, she said, this will be “minimised”.
She added: “When it comes, any disruption to people working on the land, or on the road will be temporary. The aim is to free up landscapes that are of national importance, which is good for the landscape and for the people who live and visit there.”