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House of Commons Hansard
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Electricity Pylons: Sensitive Environments
12 May 2016
Volume 609
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4. What steps her Department plans to take to (a) require the undergrounding of power cables and (b) mitigate in other ways the effect of electricity pylons on sensitive environments. [904991]

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It is quite right that network companies give proper consideration to the protection of communities and sensitive areas, and my hon. Friend is right to speak up for his local residents. I hope I can reassure him and his constituents that legislation already puts such a requirement on network companies. Local communities will always be properly consulted on how new transmission networks might affect their local environment.

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I am grateful for that reply. The Minister will be aware that many miles of new electricity cabling will be required across the country for new energy projects, including in my area of north Wales. When there is controversy, does she agree that the cost of delays to such infrastructure projects could far outweigh the cost of undergrounding sections of cabling in sensitive areas to help overcome such controversy? Does she also agree that planning guidance may need firming up to enable clarity around the requirement?

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I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that getting on with projects and avoiding delays is important, and I am sure he will appreciate that there is a balance to be struck. A recent independent study showed that the undergrounding of transmission lines can cost up to £24 million per kilometre compared with up to £4.4 million per kilometre for overhead lines, and such costs are ultimately paid through consumer bills. I reassure him that existing planning guidance will ensure that undergrounding is always fully considered.

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I want to ask the Minister about vertical infrastructure more broadly. We have pylons going through Cumbria, and my constituency has an awful lot of wind farms and telephone masts. How do we bring all of that together when we consider new planning?

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I hope I can reassure the hon. Lady that local authority planning processes do always take into account the cumulative impact of yet one more project getting under way. I suppose that this is a question for the Department for Communities and Local Government, but the existing planning arrangements not only allow for proper local consultation and proper consideration of all the alternatives, including undergrounding to take infrastructure right out of sight, but consider what one more project will do and whether things can be brought together. If an area is affected, different projects can be undertaken in the same place, rather than being spread out and ruining the landscape.