Plans to build hundreds of giant pylons connecting wind farms and nuclear power stations to the national grid will blight the landscape for generations, Defence Secretary Liam Fox has warned.
In a letter to Environment Secretary Chris Huhne, Dr Fox says the ‘short-term’ attempt to plug Britain’s energy gap will damage sensitive landscapes such as the Somerset Levels, Snowdonia and the Kent Downs.
He urges Mr Huhne to insist that new power cables are buried underground.
In a highly unusual move, Dr Fox confirmed the contents of the leaked letter, saying the choice of pylons – each up to 150ft tall – was ‘short-termism of the worst sort’.
He said: ‘We are making decisions that will affect our environment for the next 50 years.’ National Grid has said that transporting electricity by pylons costs about £2.2million per mile, while laying cables underground would cost ten times as much.
But Dr Fox cites research suggesting the lifetime cost of pylons could be double that of underground cables over 40 years.
He said National Grid’s consultation on the plans was a PR exercise, ‘not a proper consultation’.
In his letter to Mr Huhne, which was written in June, he says: ‘If we are to have credible green credentials, then the decision needs to be taken on more than short-term economics ignoring the environmental impact in the longer term.’
Dr Fox is understood to be angry at plans to build a 37-mile line of pylons through his north Somerset constituency, linking Hinkley Point nuclear power station to Avonmouth.
The pylons will stand 150ft tall – far higher than the conventional 85ft structures used in the past.
Dr Fox suggests that the power cables they will carry could be put under the sea.
Similar plans for giant pylons will affect parts of Constable country in East Anglia, the Kent Downs and the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire.
National Grid is seeking permission to build more than 400 miles of new pylons, many in scenic parts of the country.
New radar systems that allay military fears about wind farms could clear the way for thousands of turbines across the country.
Defence chiefs had expressed concerns that wind farms could put Britain at risk because early-warning radar could not distinguish between enemy aircraft and turbines.
But now it has emerged that mobile radar systems that can make the distinction are being purchased from the American defence contractor Lockheed Martin for £20million each.
The first TPS-77 system will be installed in November at Trimingham in Norfolk. Another will follow in the Scottish Borders.
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