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Power lines go underground in Churchill’s landscape

A Kent beauty spot which was once home to Sir Winston Churchill is being improved by a £224,840 investment to underground power lines near Westerham.

From Press releases - 7 August 2014 12:00 AM

Power lines go underground in Churchill's landscape.jpg

A Kent beauty spot which was once home to Sir Winston Churchill is being improved by a £224,840 investment to underground power lines near Westerham.

Today, electricity company UK Power Networks will be dismantling 1.3km of power lines which were first installed around the time that the great wartime leader and his family still lived at Chartwell, his main country residence from 1922.

Sir Winston was known for his love of the countryside and the panoramic views from his home included the French Street farm where the power lines are currently situated in a nationally-protected landscape. The French Street estate is now owned by Lord Astor of Hever.

The company, which owns and operates Kent’s electricity network, is removing the 11,000-volt power lines and poles. The project being carried out with the help of a £6.6million funding pot to put power lines underground in special landscapes such as the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Shaun Barrell, UK Power Networks’ protected areas project officer, said: “It is incredible to think that Sir Winston may have seen these electricity lines going up on his estate in the Sixties. As a man known for his love of the natural environment, you cannot help wondering what he would have thought about their removal now. I hope he would be pleased with what we are doing. It’s a pleasure to be enhancing this historic setting.”

Tim Owen, from Kent Downs AONB, said: “Once part of Churchill’s Chartwell estate, the heritage value of this area is high. Removal of the power lines in this valley will greatly enhance this important setting. Being a shallow-sided valley, the poles and power lines form a significant feature in the landscape. It’s a remote location generally free from man-made clutter.”

The power lines stretch through a valley below Toys Hill, a popular National Trust countryside site which is the highest point in the Kent Downs. Lots of people visit the area to see the home of the inspirational leader who led Britain to victory in the Second World War.

UK Power Networks has a special allowance from the industry regulator, Ofgem, to remove power lines in AONBs and national parks. The projects are chosen by a regional steering group of environment experts, including the Kent Downs AONB, and chaired by Natural England. UK Power Networks provides technical support and guidance and carries out the projects.

Since 2005 the electricity network operator has been working with environmental experts from each of the AONB units and national parks to enhance the appearance of some of Britain’s most important landscapes. Between 2010 and 2015, UK Power Networks is investing about £6.6million in projects to replace overhead lines with underground cables in AONBs and national parks in the South East.