The COVID-19 pandemic has made many appreciate the benefits of country walks and now a popular Bedfordshire beauty spot will be improved for everyone to enjoy in future.
A major project to transform the Dunstable Downs skyline is set to get underway with the aim of enhancing views at the highest point in the county which attracts 750,000 visitors a year.
UK Power Networks, which distributes electricity across the East of England, is leading the £2million project on National Trust land with the support of the Chilterns Conservation Board.
Starting in early June, the company will remove two circuits of 33,000-volt overhead power lines across 4km, dismantle the 23 towers supporting them, and install 4.5km of underground cables. The project, which is due to finish in December, will also boost power supplies for the local area.
Ivan Churchman, project manager at UK Power Networks, says: “This work will make a tangible and lasting difference to the skyline at Dunstable Downs. As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s the highest point in Bedfordshire with sweeping views and as well as improved views it will be safer for leisure pursuits such as kite flying.
“We are working closely with the National Trust and the Chilterns Conservation Board to minimise any disruption while the work takes place and are looking forward to everybody enjoying the benefits of this transformation by the end of the year.”
Jacqui Mooney, an operations manager from the National Trust, comments: “We welcome this project and look forward to enjoying the uninterrupted views and creating a safer place for thousands of kite flyers that are drawn to the highest spot in Bedfordshire.
“Dunstable Downs is home to a variety of wildlife, including many rare species of butterflies, birds, insects and flowers and we have been working closely with UK Power Networks and the Chilterns Conservation Board to minimise the impact to their habitats, whilst this work takes place. Visitors will be able to continue to enjoy the Downs, while the work is in progress.”
Neil Jackson from the Chilterns Conservation Board says: “We are delighted to see this project coming to completion after many years planning.
“Removal of pylons and wires will dramatically improve views from the Downs across the vale and enhance enjoyment and safety of all those who visit this beautiful location. We are grateful to UK Power Networks staff who have worked hard to make this project possible, while minimising disturbance to the wealth of wildlife that flourishes on the steep chalk escarpment.”