A landowner opposed to plans for a new network of pylons in north Cumbria has launched a campaign to stop the scheme going ahead.
There are just days left for people to respond to the first round of consultation on ScottishPower Energy Networks’ proposal for a new route of 46m-high pylons through rural countryside around Longtown.
The energy giant wants to replace most of a 132,000-volt line from Auchencrosh, Ayrshire, with a new 400,000-volt line. It has plans for an overhead line from where a subsea cable from Northern Ireland comes ashore to the UK-wide electricity transmission system at Harker, just outside Carlisle.
The sixth zone runs from Ecclefechan in Dumfriesshire into Cumbria and the preferred route, from the border north of Longtown and in a south-east direction towards Harker, is something Richard Westoll thinks could be avoided.
Mr Westoll, 60, a farmer from Glingerburn, two miles north of the town, said the plans were unnecessary and wants more people to speak out about their concerns.
Since the Government ended its subsidy scheme for onshore windfarms he said the capacity planned for “will never be achieved” because fewer windfarms will be built as a result.
The proposed route, which is the longest of all options, could be between 12 and 23km long. The pylons are twice the height of existing ones and would also generate magnetic field emissions three times greater than the existing line.
Mr Westoll thinks the height of the power lines will dominate the landscape and affect tourism and house prices in the area. He has heard from a woman who recently moved to Kirklinton and who said she would never have bought the house had she known there was a threat of pylons.
He leafleted 277 homes in the proposed corridor, excluding Longtown, and asked for those in opposition to contact him by email. He has heard back from six people.
“There is massive local apathy and people need to be woken up to it. But it might just go over the top of them and they might wake up looking at it out of their kitchen window every morning for the future,” he said.
Mr Westoll thinks ScottishPower Energy Networks should consider putting the line underground or under the sea along with the possibility of following the route of the existing 132kV line, west of the A74.
He said: “If it had to come at all, that area is already blighted. The route is only 8km long and it would affect less households. It’s already marred by railways, road and electricity lines. It is a good place for them to put the line.
“I realise that is also putting a lot of pressure on people living around that area and they don’t want to be blighted by it anymore than anyone else so it’s a very difficult one. But to actually put it through virgin countryside which hasn’t had any pylons before, I think is wrong.”
Aware of the greater costs involved in the alternative options, he said: “They’re getting a huge subsidy for [offshore] wind power from the Government and I think they should be forced to spend the excess the they’ve got – over the top of normal costs of generation by conventional means – they should be forced to spend that on ameliorating the powerlines.
“Also I don’t know how they were ever given planning permission to go ahead without any form of infrastructure to take the power away from the points of source, it’s absolutely monstrous.”
ScottishPower Energy Networks believes the proposed route will have the least visual impact and favours its distance from the Solway Coast protected landscapes, the historic Solway Moss and Sark battlefields and the buffer zone around the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
A spokesman for the energy company said a wide range of options were examined and studies at this stage indicated an overhead line was the most feasible option.
However he added: “We will continue to consider the use of alternatives as we consult and develop the detailed route of the line.
“Every single consultation response will be analysed and more studies will be carried out to ensure that the areas we’ve identified are the right ones to take forward.
“We have an open mind and we will listen to what people tell us during the consultation.”
He said that evidence from more than 30 years’ research into whether electric and magnetic fields have any effect on health suggested they do not cause disease.
Mr Westoll is asking people to follow the Keep Existing Electricity Pylon Route Facebook page and to contact him by email at email@example.com.
The consultation ends on Monday. Views can be submitted via a feedback form at www.spenergynetworks.co.uk/pages/dumfries_galloway_feedback_form.asp.
For details call 0800 157 7353 or write to Freepost Spen DGSR.