AONB Looking To Remove Overhead Cables

The Isles of Scilly AONB is conducting a survey to identify unsightly overhead electricity cables that could be buried underground.

This follows the completion last month of a £60,000 ’undergrounding’ project on Tresco, which buried the last remaining stretch of overhead cabling through the centre of the island, between St Nicholas Church at New Grimsby and Old Grimsby Quay.

Rebecca Steggles from the AONB, said the organisation had secured money for the Tresco project some time ago, through the Ofgem Undergrounding Scheme.

The AONB had also made an application for funds to bury cables in the Holy Vale area of St Mary’s during 2012-13, but due to pressure on the fund from larger projects on the mainland, Rebecca said this was unlikely to be successful.

The Holy Vale proposal came about following an approach by local residents, but she says the AONB are keen to undertake a more systematic survey to identify potential sites for removal of overhead cables in the hope that money would become available in the future.

Rebecca says they are also keen to hear from residents who think the overhead cables in their area are particularly unsightly.

Ritchie Christopher from Western Power who carried out the work on Tresco, said there were advantages to burying cables other than simply tidying up the landscape.

He said underground cables were less prone to wear and tear from weather and less likely to go wrong, although he admitted when they did develop a fault, it was often harder and more expensive to fix.

Ritchie said in an ideal world, he would like to see all cabling put underground, but this was very expensive to achieve and there might be other priorities on the money available.

He added that most of the time, people actually don’t notice the overhead cables because they become part of the built landscape.

Ritchie says the majority of electricity cables on the Off-Islands were buried in the 1980’s, but Tresco decided not to be part of that scheme at the time because it was scheduled to take place during the busy summer season.

Ritchie says the Tresco project also allowed Western Power to make some upgrades to the system, including replacing three overhead substations with a single, ground-mounted unit with smart grid technology that can be controlled from the mainland.

He said he’s aware of several areas on St Mary’s identified for removal of overhead cabling if and when funds are available, including a stretch on the Garrison.

Rebecca says the AONB will also approach BT to look at burying cables in the same trenches as fibre optics during the roll-out of superfast broadband.