A World First in Dorset

A World First in Dorset

Rural Partner Will Wallis from our Dorchester office reveals why Dorset is getting VIP treatment

If you’ve found yourself on the A35 between Dorchester and Bridport recently you might have wondered what on earth is being built now.

However, you can breathe a sigh of relief that this eyesore is temporary and part of the National Grid’s Visual Impact Provision (NGVIP) project.  NGVIP makes use of a fund made available by Ofgem and creates an opportunity to enhance the West Dorset landscape and transform the views from the Hardy Monument and the South Dorset Ridgeway.  It will achieve this by removing 22 unsightly electricity pylons between Winterbourne Abbas and Friar Waddon, replacing them with 9km of underground cables and leaving an unblemished skyline.

This is the first time a project of this kind has been undertaken anywhere in the world for the sole benefit of improving the surrounding landscape. Of course, this all sounds simple enough, but it is in fact a major engineering challenge made trickier by current land uses, ecological impact, the topography of the countryside and archaeological interest.

I have been involved with the project since the early planning stages of the scheme, working on behalf of seven of the landowners who have been, or will be, affected by the scheme and have seen first-hand some of the challenges the venture has faced.

Dorset has a historically rich landscape and the preservation of archaeological interest has been paramount. More than 147 excavation trenches have been dug and a burial chamber of seven mid-6th century bodies were discovered on a client’s farm, as well as evidence of Bronze Age barrows, a potential Roman settlement and medieval cemetery, so far.

Moving on to the 21st century, the construction of the scheme has impacted on other aspects of farming and rural businesses where negotiations and agreements have had to be made, including negative impacts on a client’s poultry farm, agreeing bio security measures for a pig unit, the knock-on effects to a campsite business, and disruption as footpaths have been diverted to private land.

The engineering itself is also vastly different from most new underground cables that some landowners may have experienced with easements in the past. However, as usual the land will be fully reinstated, with the landowner receiving negotiated compensation and able to resume farming practice once the cables are installed.

A lot of consideration has been given to the environmental impact of the scheme and the Reconnecting the Ridgeway Project was awarded £400,000 from the Landscape Enhancement Initiative (an important part of NGVIP). With this they will be laying hedges, planting an orchard, creating a daffodil nursery, restoring boundary features and creating wildlife ponds to encourage biodiversity.

Initial work on this scheme started back in 2015 and the project will be completed in 2022 at a total cost of £116m. Let’s hope once the project is finalised many of us can enjoy the ‘unblotted’ landscape and appreciate the work which is being done to restore and enhance our environment.

Symonds & Sampson's Rural Agents can assist with any claims for Wayleaves, Easements and Compulsary Purchase, ensuring that clients are properly compensated in accordance with relevant legislation.  Contact Will on 01305 236572, or your local office for further information. 

This article is taken from Symonds & Sampson's award-winning lifestyle magazine 'Country Matters'. Why not take a read? 

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