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Sparkling winemakers toast power line removal

English sparkling wine producers in Alfriston can crack open the bubbly to celebrate the removal of power lines from the South Downs National Park.

From Press releases - 30 June 2014 12:00 AM

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English sparkling wine producers in Alfriston can crack open the bubbly to celebrate the removal of power lines from the South Downs National Park.

UK Power Networks, which delivers electricity supplies in the South East, has just completed a project to remove 1.4miles of power lines, poles and equipment at the Rathfinny Wine Estate. The last remaining poles were removed last Wednesday (June 25).

The £426,513 improvements were funded by the electricity distributor’s £6.6million initiative to enhance nationally-protected landscapes. New underground cables have been laid to replace the power lines on the wine estate and National Trust’s Frog Firle Estate.

Mark Driver, from the Rathfinny Wine Estate, Sussex’s newest winery, said: “It was lovely to see the overhead power lines disappear from both the Cuckmere and Cradle Valley. Removing them has really improved this beautiful part of the South Downs.”

Shaun Barrell, UK Power Networks’ protected areas project officer, said: “The power lines have been a permanent feature of this beautiful landscape for many years, delivering essential power supplies to the area. We welcome the chance to restore the landscape to how it might have looked before the electricity network was built while maintaining reliable power supplies.”

Pete Currell, from the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “It’s great to see UK Power Networks taking advantage of this funding to improve the spectacular landscapes of the South Downs National Park. Walkers can also appreciate the improved views on a new access trail through the Rathfinny Estate.

“This underground cabling is just one of three schemes happening in the National Park over the next two years and we hope that we’ll be able to announce two more in the very near future.”

Removing the power lines will also improve views from public footpaths near the Cuckmere River and educational and farm buildings on the National Trust’s Frog Firle Estate. Jane Cecil, general manager for the National Trust’s South Downs portfolio said: “We now all have our open sky views back – and they are magnificent.”

Alfriston village is a magnet for tourists attracted by the old buildings, countryside, walking and cycling. The village has a rare fourteenth-century Clergy House which was the first building to be purchased by the National Trust in 1896.

UK Power Networks has a special allowance from the industry regulator, Ofgem, to remove power lines in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The projects are chosen by a regional steering group of environment experts, including the South Downs National Park, and chaired by Natural England. UK Power Networks provides technical support and guidance and carries out the projects.

Between 2010 and 2015 UK Power Networks has £6.6million to invest in projects to replace overhead lines with underground cables in AONBs and National Parks in the South East. Since 2005 the company has removed 86km of power lines to enhance some of Britain’s most important landscapes.