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Star comment: A decision looming in pylon fight

Time is almost up… there are only a few more days left in the consultation process over the scheme which would see the National Grid creating a 33-mile high voltage electricity link across Mid Wales and part of the north of Shropshire.

We do not have to wait until then to know how those most affected by the scheme feel. They have made their objections known in protests, in letters, in reasoned debates, and in all other ways which are open to them.

The project affects one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of Britain. Imagine if we were talking about a great landscape painting by a famous artist, and then somebody from the National Grid came along and inked in some high voltage power pylons marching across the masterpiece. It would be an outrage and be described as vandalism. That is how those who face a future in the shadow of these power lines see things, although it should be pointed out that part of the connection will run underground.

The power line is collateral damage of something else that is controversial – wind farms. The link will carry the power they generate to Lower Frankton, near Oswestry.

For its part, the National Grid says it is simply doing its duty, as laid down by the Government, to provide a connection for the wind farms from the date they start to generate.

This means, as everybody knows, that there is a political dimension. The Government can change its mind.

On a recent visit the former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown called for a rethink. We are all in favour of renewable energy, he said, but it should not be at the cost of ruining the countryside. Current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has also supported the local “No More Pylons” campaign.

Two battles are being fought, the strategic one, and the tactical one. Even if the former is lost and the pylons are approved, there is scope for beneficial changes as a result of informed and reasoned objections. Already some alterations to the plans have been made as a result of the feedback.

If objectors believe that the consultation is a sham, there is some comfort for them. The start of work is years away. A general election is weeks away. Whether just a little, or fundamentally, the landscape – the political landscape – is about to change. And it could make all the difference.