Electricity pylons standing 160ft high are planned for both the Snowdonia National Park and across Mid Wales beauty spots to connect power generated by wind farms to the national grid.
Snowdonia National Park Authority officials and wind farm protesters say the plans represent a grave threat to the future of tourism in two of Wales’ most scenic spots.
Reports suggest a 10-mile corridor through Snowdonia from Dinorwig to the Menai Strait is being considered for the pylons, as well as a stretch between Welshpool and Shropshire.
Some weeks ago the Western Mail revealed how some of the 25 new wind farms planned for Wales would have turbines dwarfing the nation’s tallest buildings at 137m high.
Carwyn Roberts, chair of Snowdonia National Park Authority, suggested the pylons could undermine the whole purpose of the national park, which was set up to protect the area’s outstanding beauty.
He said: “That’s the sole reason the national parks were designated in the first instance, because of their natural beauty.
“When you are 3,560ft above sea level (Snowdon’s height) you can see for quite a considerable distance and, of course, these proposals would be a distraction from what is, after all, beautiful scenery.”
Alison Davies, chair of Conservation of Upland Powys, suggested the pylons would totally the alter the character of the areas where they were established.
Mrs Davies said Mid Wales was identified as one of seven Welsh areas suitable for wind farms because in the early 2000s Manweb had plans to increase the capacity of its grid connections in the region. However, these plans were thrown out by regulator Ofgem, meaning the wind farms are going ahead without the original infrastructure improvements that would have made them less intrusive.
Mrs Davies said the only alternative to the pylons is underground cables, but these would be equally damaging for the environment.
She said: “They’d only be about 4ft underground and the trenches would be about 35 or 36 metres wide.”
Across the UK the lines are required to carry the electricity from wind farms – most in isolated parts of northern and western Britain – to cities further south and east.
Mr Roberts suggested an additional stretch of pylons would be required in the national park if plans for a new nuclear power station to replace the existing Wylfa facility on Anglesey go ahead.
Further it’s unlikely that local authorities in either Powys or North Wales will have any meaningful say on the schemes – all proposals over 50MW are determined by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
A DECC spokesman said: “Striking the right balance between cost and the visual impact of grid infrastructure is central to the various measures we are introducing within planning reforms.
“If needed, options include underground cabling and upgrading the existing network, as well as overhead lines.”
A spokesman for the Assembly Government suggested they wanted more influence over the issue.
He said: “We do not see the need for the proliferation of pylons across Snowdonia and north Powys. Our position has not changed, we do not see this as a decision for the UK Government, and believe Wales should be making the decisions concerning its own resources.”