Roundway Hill pylon

Going underground – plans submitted to remove 4.6km section of overhead power lines in North Wessex Downs

If approved work on the project would commence on site during 2023
  • Proposal to remove 4.6km of existing overhead high voltage electricity line and replace it with underground infrastructure
  • Plans developed in collaboration with local stakeholders will transform the skyline in Devizes, including classic downland views from the Millennium White Horse
  • Submission of planning application follows more than three years of engagement with local communities, businesses and stakeholders

A project to replace 4.6km of overhead electricity line and 13 pylons with underground cable to the north of Devizes has reached an important milestone and submitted its planning application to Wiltshire Council. A submission to industry regulator Ofgem for the funding of the project was also made last week.

The project aims to enhance the landscape in the stretch of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to the north of Devizes, as part of National Grid’s Visual Impact Provision (VIP) project* to reduce the visual impact of existing high voltage power lines in protected areas across England and Wales.

Since the project first began in 2019, National Grid has been working together with local stakeholders to develop its proposals, including Natural England, Wiltshire Council, Historic England, North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership, and the town and community councils.

Additionally, the project team have been meeting with a range of special interest groups especially those focusing on archaeology, ecology and countryside access. Last summer, members of the team led 25 enthusiastic ramblers in two walks over Roundway Hill as part of the North Wessex Downs 50th Anniversary Walking Festival. There will also be a ‘pylon walk’ as part of this year’s festival in June.

Chris Baines, chair of the VIP project’s national independent Stakeholder Advisory Group said: “By working with a range of stakeholders at a national and local level, we have a major opportunity to preserve and enhance this landscape. Those familiar with this part of the North Wessex Downs AONB will be aware of the positive impact that removal of the pylons will have on the views across this wonderful place.

“The North Wessex Downs project is one of five proposed major projects under the VIP scheme. The VIP Project is the first time that high voltage overhead transmission lines have been removed and placed underground purely to reduce their visual impact and enhance a beautiful landscape.”

Chris Carr, National Grid VIP Senior Project Manager added: “This is a unique project, in that it’s been stakeholder-driven from the outset. We’ve listened and responded to those who know the area the best and have been able to develop a proposal that will significantly enhance the landscape.

“The planning application is a significant milestone and in developing our plans we have taken on board advice from a variety of local experts, organisations and landowners, as well as the local community in the nearby towns and villages.”

If approved work on the project would commence on site during 2023 with construction complete and the pylons removed in 2026.