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‘Dramatic’ change to Dunstable skyline

Wednesday 8 December 2021

A major power project has transformed views across the highest point in Bedfordshire to spectacular effect.

UK Power Networks, which distributes electricity across the East of England, has completed a major £2 million scheme to replace a section of overhead lines with underground cables at Dunstable Downs.

On land owned by the National Trust, the Dunstable Downs project has been supported by the Chilterns Conservation Board. The site attracts around 750,000 visitors a year.

The scheme saw the removal of two circuits of 33,000-volt overhead power lines across 4km, as well as the dismantling of the 23 towers supporting them, and installation of 4.5km of underground cables.

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The work, which will also bolster the resilience of power supplies locally, was completed to schedule, and was helped by the use of an innovative remote-controlled cable plough, supplied by ATP.

Ivan Churchman, project manager at UK Power Networks, said: “This work has made a lasting difference to the skyline at Dunstable Downs as well as enhancing the reliability of the network serving local homes and businesses.

“As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we know it attracts a huge number of visitors and activities they undertake, such as kite flying, will now be much safer. Those visiting just to enjoy the views will now have these uninterrupted.

“Throughout the project we worked closely with our partners and to minimise any disruption and it is fantastic that everybody is now in position to share the benefits of this amazing transformation.”

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Neil Jackson from the Chilterns Conservation Board said: “The visual improvement is truly dramatic! Enhancing the classic chalk escarpment at Dunstable Downs by removing the steel pylons and cables crossing the landscape, has been a long-standing ambition of the Chilterns Conservation Board and many others representing the local community."

Josh Kyle, Visitor Operations and Experience Manager at Dunstable Downs for the National Trust, said: “This project has unlocked the landscape at Dunstable Downs creating a safe space for visitors to not only fly kites, picnic and spend time with friends and family but to explore, and connect with nature.”

“A project of this nature in such a sensitive location is not without its challenges and we are very grateful to the UK Power Networks team. The careful work they have carried out has secured lasting improvements to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty that will be appreciated by hundreds of thousands of people every year.”

A short video clip of the dismantlement:

 

Picture credits: UK Power Networks

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