Overhead wires is a project that works with partner organisations, from the private, public and voluntary sectors, to remove the man-made clutter of overhead wires and poles from protected landscapes in Cumbria.

Friends of the Lake District has long recognised that electricity and telephone wires have a visual impact and detract from a landscape’s natural beauty. Spaces free from such eyesores are important, whether open moors or wooded valleys. Overhead lines can also spoil village character, particularly in conservation areas and where they impact on village greens.

Images above: Electricity North West – the region’s power network operator – removes 870 metres of overhead power lines at Tottle Bank.

Friends of the Lake District has been campaigning on overhead lines since the 1930s. It published a report in 2003 called “A Clear View” which assessed the scope of placing overhead lines underground. This was key in persuading the government regulator, Ofgem, to establish an allowance amongst electricity companies to underground wires and poles within protected landscapes. For over ten years, the charity has met with staff from the region’s: electricity distribution company, Electricity North West, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to agree undergrounding schemes within these special landscapes of the north west.

Impacts/outputs of the project

Between 2010 and 2015 there was an undergrounding allowance of £5.4 million for the north west region.  This equated to approximately 48 kilometres of line being undergrounded over the five years.  Now, there is an eight year undergrounding programme (2015 to 2023) with a budget of £9 million for the region and a target of undergrounding approximately 80 kilometres of line in the north west.