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Undergrounding

Since 2006 UK Power Networks, working in association with Natural England and AONBs across the region, will have removed over 115km of visually intrusive overhead power lines from protected landscapes in the South East of England. In the Kent Downs over 23km of overhead cabling has been removed. This work has been made possible by a special allowance granted by the electricity regulator Ofgem to remove overhead lines from protected landscapes such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s) and National Parks.

How are schemes selected?

Successful projects are identified and determined by a regional steering group comprising of representatives of the AONB and national park management units, and chaired by Natural England.  UK Power Networks offers technical support and guidance to the group and carries out the work but doesn’t vote on the selection of individual projects. The cost of any scheme is met from the special allowance granted by the electricity regulator Ofgem. For the period April 2015 – March 2023 £10m is available for schemes in the South East and £10m for schemes in the East of England.

Who is consulted?

Prior to any scheme being approved by the steering group consent is sought from all landowners and their tenants likely to be affected by any proposal. Parish and Town Councils, the local planning authority and other statutory bodies are also consulted as part of the feasibility process.  

Do village locations qualify for consideration?

The conditions of the available funding mean that only wood pole lines in open countryside are considered and provide best use of the funding. Regrettably towns villages and hamlets cannot be considered due to the complexity of the overhead network and the presence of other utilities.

What about steel tower (pylon) lines?

The high costs and operational restraints associated with high voltage tower lines make any undergrounding uneconomic in terms of the allowance.

How long does the work take?   

A typical project to underground 3km of overhead line would take around 3-4 months from the installation of the underground cable network to the final dismantlement of the overhead line. 

Who do I contact?

If you have identified a potential scheme contact the Kent Downs AONB unit.