Hundreds of residents attended a meeting to oppose plans to put up electricity pylons through the North Somerset countryside.
MP Liam Fox was joined by representatives from the National Grid at the meeting hosted by the Nailsea Against Pylons campaign group on Saturday afternoon.
The meeting at Nailsea Methodist Church was organised after the National Grid unveiled more detailed proposals for the power lines between Hinkley Point and Avonmouth earlier this month.
Under the plans, cables would be buried beneath the ground in the Mendip Hills, but a high-voltage overhead line would run on 46m-high pylons between Bridgwater and Seabank, near Avonmouth.
Residents and politicians want the National Grid to consider burying all the cables underground but the organisation says it would be too expensive.
Between 200 and 300 people watched a presentation put together by the National Grid detailing the precise route of the line, which includes some underground sections of lower voltage 132kv line at Tickenham and Portishead.
Conservative MP for North Somerset Dr Fox, questioned why the entire line – including the higher voltage 400kv cables – could not be buried underground and told the meeting that people would be willing to pay higher energy bills to reduce the impact of the development on the environment.
The former defence secretary said: “People are going to be paying more for their electricity bills for green energy. If people are paying more anyway, they may as well be paying more for what they want for their money.”
Dr Fox prompted a round of applause from the audience when he said it would add very little per year to householders’ bills to cover the cost of burying the cables under ground.
Chris Ambrose, a consultant engineer and chairman of Wraxall and Failand Parish Council, said there were several viable alternatives to pylons, including putting the cabling underground following the route of the M5 or railway lines.
He said: “Ofgem and National Grid should do what they promised and protect our countryside now and for future generations.”
One Nailsea resident, Pat Sims, of Causeway View, said that under the new proposals the power lines would be closer to her home.
She said: “If the line can go underground at Tickenham Ridge, why not at Nailsea Moor? I will be able to see it from my home and I want it to be underground.”
John Miles, representing the residents of Cadbury Camp Lane, Tickenham, said: “It may cost £16 million to put the 400kv line underground but that will be very cheap compared to the hassle you will get from us, legally or illegally. We will give you absolute hell and you will be better off looking at some alternatives.”
National Grid major project manager David Mercer said it was far more costly to bury 400kv lines than 132kv lines.
He said: “It’s because of the power-carrying capacity. It’s not two or three times more – it’s massively more. The cabling system is much larger and more expensive to manufacture and store.”
Mr Mercer said National Grid bosses had tried to keep the line equidistant between Nailsea and Tickenham and not too close to homes.
He said: “There’s a balance to be struck here, as there is on all these projects. We are guided by the Government and if the guidance of the Government changes, we will revisit our plans.”