Last known Wordsworth descendant joins fight to stop Lake District pylons

National Grid has agreed to use underground cables within national park, but plans to put pylons 10 metres outside it

The last known descendant of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth is to join campaigners marching to “save the Lake District from pylons” on New Year’s Day.

Ninety pylons the height of Nelson’s column are planned across an estuary in the area of outstanding natural beauty where Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud.

Christopher Wordsworth, great-great-great-great-grandson of the poet, is fighting a £2.8bn plan to “fence in” the scenic Lake District.

National Grid wants to link the proposed nuclear plant at Moorside near Sellafield, Cumbria, to the UK power network at the Heysham power station in Morecambe.

After agreeing not to place 47-metre-high pylons all the way through the Lake District national park, the utility giant proposed a £460m plan to run cables underground.

However, that will still see pylons placed along a two-mile (3.3km) stretch in Whicham valley, just 10 metres from the boundary of the national park.

Campaigners say the line of pylons will also run right across the top of the Duddon estuary, interrupting stunning views into and out of the high fells of the Lake District, scarring a cherished landscape steeped in history.

Christopher Wordsworth said: “William Wordsworth was enthralled by the unique beauty of the Duddon, which inspired his famous series of sonnets.

“As much as the works of my ancestor are an important part of our literary heritage, his ‘long-loved Duddon’ is an important part of our natural heritage. We owe it to his memory to preserve its beauty for future generations to enjoy.”

The MP John Woodcock will also join the New Year’s Day walk with environmental campaigners carrying banners and placards highlighting opposition to the plans.

Woodcock said: “In more than six years of representing the people of Barrow and Furness, few campaigns I have been involved in have stirred as much passion as this fight to protect the beauty of our landscape from these giant pylons.

“National Grid has said it will listen to the views of local people and we need to demonstrate our strength of feeling ahead of the public consultation.

“Our campaign has received the backing of the Broughton-based CGP textbook publishing company which is placing full-page advertisements in the local and national press on a series of dates around the Christmas period and we are all looking forward to the walk.”

The landscape charity Friends of the Lake District and campaign group Power Without Pylons have joined forces to fight the plan.

They have asked National Grid to adopt an alternative solution, which would remove the need to take the power cables up the valley and around the estuary.

Friends of the Lake District is urging local people to take part in a consultation, which ends on 6 January.

Dr Kate Willshaw, policy officer at Friends of the Lake District, said: “We need as many people as possible to tell National Grid that putting pylons just metres outside of the national park’s south-western boundary will cause unacceptable damage, destroying the special qualities of the national park and interrupting people’s enjoyment of our beautiful landscape renowned throughout the world.”

National Grid claims it is proposing extensive measures to reduce the impact of the project on the landscape of Cumbria while balancing this with the need to keep energy bills affordable.

The company aims to submit an application for consent to build the new connection to the Planning Inspectorate in 2017.

A decision will then be made by the secretary of state for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. If consent is granted, construction work is expected to start in 2019.

Graham Barron, secretary of Power Without Pylons, said: “Protecting this important area is not just a local issue but a national issue.

“More than 40 million people visit Cumbria each year to enjoy these special landscapes. They don’t want them scarred by lumps of metal and unsightly overhead wires.

“There are feasible alternatives to pylons which we have campaigned for from the outset. If enough people state their objections to giant pylons in writing we believe the wall of opposition will force National Grid to reconsider.”

The author Bill Bryson, who has also joined the campaign, said: “Britain’s countryside doesn’t stop being glorious at the boundaries of its national parks. It is beautiful – and vulnerable – nearly everywhere, and should be respected and cherished wherever it enhances a landscape. It would be a tragedy to lose these exquisite views just for the sake of one company’s bottom line.”

Earlier this year, a wave of protests helped stop the North West Coast Connections project, which intended to install pylons through the Lake District.

National Grid confirmed that it would now put 14 miles of cables underground, running through the western side of the national park.

A National Grid spokeswoman said: “We have had to make some difficult choices about landscapes outside the national park but we believe that we can reduce the impact on them by sensitive placement of pylons and screening.”

She added: “We have had thousands of conversations with people over the six years we’ve been developing this project and Friends of the Lake District have attended many of the meetings we held to develop our proposals with local authorities and other key bodies.

“We have spoken to hundreds more people about our plans during our current consultation exercise. This continues until 6 January 2017 and we encourage people to give us their feedback as this will be vital in helping us shape the project.”


Nazia Parveen North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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