The Coalition’s energy reforms threaten the “beauty and tranquillity” of the countryside because they encourage National Grid to cover Britain with pylons, the Campaign to Protect Rural England has warned.
Campaigners last night urged Edward Davey, the Energy Secretary, to introduce new protections for Britain’s landscape amid fears the laws will cause a sprawl of infrastructure.
The Energy Bill offers companies incentives to build wind farms and nuclear power plants which will require their sub-stations, power lines and other infrastructure.
The CPRE fears that without more environmental safeguards efforts to produce more green energy will come “at the expense of the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of the countryside”.
Tom Leveridge, senior energy campaigner at the CPRE, said: “The Government is very focused on increasing generation capacity to achieve its targets and we’re concerned it hasn’t paid enough attention to reducing the need for infrastructure. Less infrastructure goes hand in hand with protecting the landscape.”
Mr Davey, a senior Liberal Democrat, will today come under pressure to defend the impact of his reforms on the countryside by MPs on the energy committee.
Tim Yeo, the chairman of the committee and MP for Suffolk South, last night said he shares the concerns of the CPRE.
Both are worried the reforms will give a bigger role to National Grid, the manager of Britain’s pylons and pipes, which could create a “conflict of interest”.
They claim National Grid has a vested interest in building pylons because it is “incentivised” to create more infrastructure.
“Pylons are the most offensive way of transmitting electricity because they are the most visible,” Mr Yeo said. “The role played by National Grid will be very influential. It might be tempted to choose to support the kind of power that requires more power lines.”
Energy and engineering companies will also have no obligation to consider how new pylons will affect the landscape or seascape under the reforms.
Mr Yeo said he would take the Energy Secretary to task on the shortcomings of the Bill.
“[The Government] needs to rethink National Grid’s role and build into the bill more environmental protection,” he said.
The Energy Secretary last night strongly disputed the CPRE’s claims that the reforms would damage the countryside
“Nothing threatens the beauty and the tranquillity of the countryside more than climate change,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“If we don’t act to clean up our power system, emissions will continue to rise and we will see the impact of this on the countryside in increasingly unpredictable weather and depletion of habitats and species diversity.
He added that the UK has “robust planning laws” to prevent local projects from going ahead if they are detrimental to the countryside.
“The future will be a lot more beautiful with low-carbon electricity than without it,” he added.