Stour Valley: Extension of the Dedham Vale AONB is hoped to support campaign to bury pylons

The Stour valley viewed from Grove Farm, Great Henny, in Essex

The Stour valley viewed from Grove Farm, Great Henny, in Essex - Credit: Archant

Landscapes that once inspired some of the nation’s finest paintings could be restored to their former glory under conservation plans for the Suffolk and Essex borderlands.

Campaigners for the preservation of the Stour Valley have applied to incorporate the region within the existing Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It is hoped the new status, covering villages such as Little Cornard, Bures and Lamarsh, will benefit tourism, improve the economy and support plans to have the region’s unsightly pylon network replaced with underground connections.

A £500m fund has been made available by Ofgem, the energy regulator, to support the removal of pylons from AONBs, which campaigners believe could be used in the Stour Valley, if Natural England approves the new status.

Stour Valley Underground (SVU), which backs the proposals, claims the removal of pylons from a landscape that once inspired the works of Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable, will be a major boost for the region and its economy.

David Holland, the group’s chairman, said: “I firmly believe that if you can get the protection of the AONB and, in the fullness of time, lose all the pylons in the area, we will have an internationally significant cultural heritage asset which will be of enormous benefit to local people, their wellbeing and the wider economy. It is all about building for the future to make sure we can capture the most from the assets that are around us.”

The Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership, which submitted the application to Natural England, said it is an aspiration that had been held for “many years” but was likely to take “quite some time” before being approved.

Most Read

“There are quite demanding criteria that have to be reached for the landscape to be included,” said Robert Erith, the partnership chairman. “But as a landscape, which would still be recognised by Gainsborough and Constable, both of whom painted here, I think we’ve got a strong argument.”

If approved, he also believes the AONB status would be a useful tool when seeking funding from Ofgem to have the pylons removed. The National Grid has already agreed that its proposed 400,000 volt Bramford to Twinstead connection would go underground through the Stour Valley section of the route, in recognition of its natural beauty,

Mr Erith suggested that when that section was built “it would make sense to underground the existing line too.”

Mr Holland’s group is also campaigning for the rest of the Bramford to Twinstead connection to be built underground, rather than the pylons previously suggested by National Grid. The project was put on hold last November, when National Grid announced that the connection, earmarked for 2017, would not be needed until the early 2020s –which is thought to be down to the delay in building Sizewell C.

A spokesman for National Grid, said this week, there had been no change in the situation.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter