Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership has been awarded a grant of £192,291 over 6 years by National Grid’s Landscape Enhancement Initiative* to be delivered at Gentleshaw Common. The grant is provided to help reduce the landscape and visual impact of existing electricity pylons and overhead lines in protected landscapes. The pylons will still be there if you look up, but the aim is to carry out works to restore the Common away from them to a place that is buzzing with heathland wildlife. The project will be delivered by our partners Staffordshire Wildlife Trust at their Gentleshaw Common Nature Reserve.
Gentleshaw Common is an 86-hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), designated for the special mix of heathland plants living there. By controlling bracken, scrub and purple moor grass this will allow the characteristic flora and fauna of lowland heath, a nationally important habitat, to thrive. Areas of wet heath will also be restored to benefit more delicate plants such as the beautiful yellow spikes of Bog Asphodel and the carnivorous Sundew. There will also be improvements to encourage sensitive access by restoring footpaths, constructing boardwalks, and improving the small car park to enable visitors the opportunity to experience and enjoy nature up close.
Councillor Frances Beatty, Chair of the Cannock Chase AONB Partnership added: “We are delighted to receive this grant and the support of National Grid. Building on the fantastic work of our partners Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, this project will help to restore the natural heather and wet heath of Cannock Chase”.
Hayley Dorrington, Southern Heathlands Warden for Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “We’re really excited to have been awarded this grant. Staffordshire’s heathlands are a massively important part of our ecosystem, but are often overlooked.
“This money will help us make Gentleshaw Common a stunning place to visit, as well as helping the heathland plants, birds and insects living there.”
Chris Baines, environmentalist, broadcaster and chair of the Stakeholder Advisory Group that advises National Grid on the Visual Impact Provision which includes the Landscape Enhancement Initiative said: “I am delighted that LEI is helping the Cannock Chase AONB and Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to restore and enhance Gentleshaw Common.
“The LEI is an initiative devised by the VIP project’s Advisory Board and managed enthusiastically by National Grid. It is an initiative that stakeholders asked for and consumers support. The enhancement of Gentleshaw Common is one of several projects involving Wildlife Trusts to benefit from LEI. I hope we can look forward to supporting many more.”
* The Landscape Enhancement Initiative is part of National Grid’s Visual Impact Provision (VIP) project which makes use of a £500m provision from the regulator, Ofgem, to reduce the landscape and visual impact of existing high-voltage electricity infrastructure in English and Welsh AONBs and National Parks.
All electricity transmission owners are funded by a price control mechanism which is agreed with and set by Ofgem, the electricity and gas markets regulator. Ofgem has agreed a set of price controls and incentives for the period from April 2013 to March 2021. This includes a provision of £500m to mitigate the visual impact of existing electricity infrastructure in nationally protected landscapes in Great Britain.
£24m of this provision has been set aside for the Landscape Enhancement Initiative. This is available to 30 AONBs and National Parks across England and Wales.
More than £2.3 million has already been awarded to eligible AONBs and National Parks in England and Wales to help fund projects to reduce the landscape and visual impacts of existing National Grid electricity transmission lines.