National Grid’s announcement that taller, albeit fewer, pylons will go through Mark before bisecting Rooksbridge and Tarnock was not well received by leaders and campaigners of those villages.
But further north Winscombe and Sandford have been spared pylons as five miles of cabling will go under the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Opponents to National Grid’s plan to connect the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant to Seabank, Avonmouth, met at Harp Road in Mark on Tuesday where the existing pylons sit to meet with film crews and give their reaction to the decision.
Paul Hipwell of No Moor Pylons said: “People in Somerset fully understand that burying power cables will cost more but it’s a price they are very willing to pay to protect the beautiful Somerset countryside for future generations to enjoy.
“National Grid has consistently said it would cost too much to underground the cables and people would not be willing to pay. Now their own report refutes these claims – National Grid should listen to what customers are saying and bury the entire route.”
Maggie Gregory of Pylon Moor Pressure said campaigners would continue to fight National Grid over the move.
It has taken three years to get to this stage and concessions in the announcement include:
Putting any pylons near Mark First School and homes as far away as possible;
Putting a new substation in Sandford as far away from homes as possible;
Taking down an existing 132,000 Western Power Distribution volt line for recycling.
Exact details of where pylons would go and what type they will be is not in this stage of consultation.
Peter Bryant, National Grid’s senior project manager, said: “We’ve been very keen to listen to the views of local people, for example on the importance of the Mendip Hills where we now plan to use underground cables. We’re very pleased that the new connection will take up to 95 pylons out of the landscape.
“We understand people have concerns about overhead lines, but where they are used, we will work hard to reduce any visual effects by routing the line carefully and using appropriate pylon designs, which could include the new T-Pylon.”
Sally Cross, of Cote, a hamlet by Highbridge, remains concerned.
She said: “We are all in the electromagnetic field and I have Lupus, which means my immune system can’t fend for itself. I’m in danger. We can’t sell our homes as no-one wants to come there.”
But one person who has welcomed National Grid’s announcement is Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose. Due to the AONB the power corridor will go five miles underground – sparing his constituency pylons.
Mr Penrose said: “This is great news for everyone who lives in and visits the Mendip Hill AONB.
“If these whopping great pylons had gone ahead we’d have damaged some of our finest countryside.
“I’m absolutely delighted that a combination of local pressure and good sense have won through.
“There’s another silver lining to today’s news too. Because, in addition to putting the lines underground through the AONB, National Grid have pledged to take down the existing, smaller pylons that run through it as well. This means that in a few years, our AONB could be pylon-free for the first time in its life.”
A special type of pylon called a cable sealing end compound would need to be put somewhere on Webbington Road, near Compton Bishop and Cross, to feed the line under the hills. It would connect into a substation at Sandford and another sealing end compound needed to connect to overhead lines.