SSEN £200,000 project helps restores Abbotsbury’s ancient views

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Images - above and at the foot of the page - show the Abbotsbury site before and after the project to undergound the overhead power lines

The Dorset village of Abbotsbury is the latest area in central southern England to benefit from a scheme by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) to replace sections of its overhead power cables in areas that will be most visually improved by undergrounding the network.

The village, which is home to the Ilchester Estates and the ancient Abbotsbury Swannery, has had its historic views restored as part of SSEN’s ongoing £15m investment programme to underground 90km of overhead distribution lines in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and National Scenic Areas across its central southern England and the north of Scotland networks.

The £200,000 project by the distribution operator, which has now completed, ran throughout the summer months and saw two and a half kilometres of the local overhead cable structure - and associated poles and conductors - replaced with a fully undergrounded cable system. The programme of works has the added benefit of providing a more resilient power supply to Abbotsbury now and for years to come, as local customers and those visiting the area adopt low carbon technologies - such as electric vehicles - to achieve their net zero goals.

The Dorset village is home to just under 500 residents and SSEN’s works were carefully planned to avoid disruption to them, the local environment and its flora and fauna. Part of the project bordered the car park to the Abbotsbury Swannery, a site housing 600 mute swans which was established by Benedictine Monks during the 1040s. Sensitive scheduling around the site was essential to avoid upsetting the nesting birds or closing sections of the car park to visitors.

Carl James, SSEN’s Project Manager said:

“This programme of works has been one of the largest ones carried out recently by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) as part of its undergrounding scheme for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and my team and I are delighted to have completed these works on schedule and on budget.

“It’s been a pleasure to help provide an uninterrupted view across this historical site that brings so much happiness to both local residents and visitors to the area.”

He added:

“When SSEN considers projects like this, our team listens to the needs of local stakeholders and balances that against any potential impact the works could have on the environment; such as the breeding or nesting seasons of birds, animals and insects.

“It’s only when both SSEN and our stakeholders are fully satisfied - through discussion and research - that the undergrounding of the infrastructure is beneficial, that we start to plan the programme that will cause the least disruption to all involved and will result in a robust network that suits our customers now and for many years to come.”

Jessica Ohnstad, Estates Surveyor for Ilchester Estates said:

“The recent undergrounding works undertaken by SSE have enhanced the area around the Swannery, restoring uninterrupted views across this unique and historic site.

“We hope that both locals and visitors will continue to enjoy the fantastic views that Abbotsbury has to offer.”

The Abbotsbury site was proposed by local stakeholders as having the potential for visual improvement through the removal of the overhead network, and through subsequent consultation and analysis of the works was approved as part of SSEN’s £15 million undergrounding programme.

While SSEN’s overhead infrastructure provides a secure and cost-effective way of safely distributing electricity to homes and businesses, the distribution operator appreciates that the network can have an impact on the natural environment in officially designated beauty spots.

It’s through this understanding that SSEN encourages local people and visitors to these areas to share their views and assist in highlighting where investment through this £15 million undergrounding scheme will make the most difference.

For further information on the scheme and how you can propose an area to be considered for an undergrounding projects, please go to https://www.ssen.co.uk/undergrounding/.

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