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Government approves controversial 40-mile stretch of overhead power-lines in Somerset

An anti-pylon campaign poster on the side of a fence in the village of Loxton, Somerset Credit: PA Images

The government has approved plans for a controversial row of overhead power-lines to link the Hinkley Point C power-station and Avonmouth.

The line of pylons will stretch for 40 miles and will stand between 35 and 50 metres high.

A small section of the power lines through the Mendips will be underground but campaigners had called for the whole route to be buried out to sea.

A general view of an electricity pylon in the Mendip Hills, Somerset Credit: PA Images

In detail: more about the new pylons

  • Across the Somerset levels T pylons are being used. They are 35 metres or 114 feet high and considerably wider than the existing pylons.
  • Closer to Portishead and Avonmouth lattice-style pylons will be used. They are 50 metres or 164 feet high.
  • The existing pylons stand at 25 metres or 82 feet high.

The MP for Wells James Heappey, who previously said it would be 'unforgivable to despoil Somerset' with overground pylons,said thousands of people in Somerset who opposed the plans had not been listened to.

The power fall-out in Westminster: Our Political Correspondent Bob Constantine looks at what the decision means for Tory MPs in London

Today's decision, confirming that a 40-mile chain of power lines will be strung across Somerset (albeit with six miles underground), will come as a big disappointment to campaigners, but not much of a surprise. The Energy Secretary has in effect upheld the recommendations of the Planning Inspectorate.

The plans affect four Parliamentary constituencies, all safe Tory seats, and held by supporters of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley. The issue therefore is not about the pros and cons of nuclear power, but how best to connect it to the grid at Avonmouth.

It's not as though the area concerned doesn't have pylons already - but they are lower and carry lower voltage cables. The government points to the fact that the 35-metre (100ft) new pylons (as high as Westminster Abbey) will be to a modern design, the result of an architectural competition.

That's unlikely to appease protesters who say that concessions to bury the line under parts of the Mendips don't go far enough. They want the whole lot buried out at sea, where the lines can also serve other forms of generation like tidal or wind energy.

This is very expensive, but the cost is coming down and the technology is being used in Scotland. Wells MP James Heappey says the failure to consider this option more fully might form the basis of a legal challenge - but don't hold your breath.

– Bob Constantine, Political Correspondent