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Wildlife warning over new pylons in Cumbria

A wildlife expert has warned that the erection of huge new pylons along the Cumbrian coastline could have a “devastating” impact on migrating birds.

George Scott, founder of the Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue Centre near Wigton, spoke out after the charity was called out to rescue six swans which had collided with existing pylons west of Carlisle in foggy weather.

One had already died, its wing torn off by the bird’s collision with the wires or metal structure. Another died later at Knoxwood.

Another two will each have to have a wing removed and the remaining two were only slightly injured and were fit for release back into the wild.

George said the incident was a powerful illustration of the danger posed to large wild birds by pylons – a danger that would be increased should the National Grid press ahead with plans to erect a 50 mile-long ring of 152ft-high pylons, spaced 400 yards apart, stretching along the Cumbrian coast. These would create a lethal barrier across a key route for migrating birds.

The structures remain one of the two remaining possible options being considered to transmit electricity from a proposed new power plant at Moorside, near Sellafield.

The company has said that in “environmentally-sensitive areas” the power cables could be buried underground. But Mr Scott is adamant that the plan for pylons, stretching from the power station to Harker, north of Carlisle, would spell disaster for bird life.

He said: “They will effectively form a barrier along the Cumbrian coast for all of the large migrating birds.

“Smaller birds may be able to manoeuvre out of the way but that’s not true of species like swans, pink footed geese, and greylag geese. We’ve also had herons injured.

“They end up in trouble when flying near these things in darkness or in foggy weather, as happened with this group of swans.

“It’s bad enough for these birds now, so imagine how bad it would be if they put up these huge new pylons.

“It would be far better if they put these cables under water where they wouldn’t harm the wildlife. They’ve just done that with a power line from Blackpool to the Isle of Man.”

National Grid has spoken of creating a ‘North West Coast Power Ring,’ capable also of taking electricity from windfarms in the Irish Sea.

The second potential option would be to run the lines to the south of Moorside, with potential to follow the path of existing power lines or possible routes offshore through the Irish Sea and across Morecambe Bay.

The company is currently trying to identify potential routes for the new infrastructure on land and offshore. Once this work has been completed, the company will consult with communities.

Tim Knowles, Cumbria County Council’s spokes-man on transport and environment, has said the county should not have to accept the proposed huge new pylons.