Clause 31 - Overhead lines

High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 1 March 2016.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We move from trees to overhead lines, which is not quite as empathetic an area. Clause 31 allows the installation and diversion of overhead lines to be carried out as part of the authorised works and grants the necessary consent for such works. This clause removes the need for the Secretary of State’s consent under the Electricity Act 1989 where the installation of the line is a work authorised by the Bill. Similar provisions were included in the Crossrail Act 2008. I beg to move that clause 31 stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:15, 1 March 2016

I simply want to raise the issue of the undergrounding of power lines. I know that that has been raised in other places, in particular with regard to areas of natural beauty. This clause speaks to installation and diversion of overhead lines. Will the Minister enlighten the Committee about the extent to which any power lines are going to be put underground?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The undergrounding of overhead power lines has been considered for those power lines affected by HS2 works already. It was concluded that it was neither an environmentally or economically beneficial solution. The removal of existing infrastructure anywhere within an area of outstanding natural beauty is not properly a matter for the HS2 Bill. Environmental mitigation and compensation has been provided by the project to compensate for the physical effects of the railway. It should be noted that the National Grid visual impact provision project initiated by Ofgem assessed national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty in England and Wales and reported in November 2014, identifying eight such protected sites where undergrounding might be beneficial. The Chilterns was not selected. I hope that that will clarify that we are not embarking on a widescale undergrounding of power lines as part of this project. We believe that that would go beyond the powers we would need to construct the railway.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 31 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.