This is the first scheme of its kind agreed by an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) in England, and the blueprint is likely to be followed by other AONBS – such as Kent Downs – which are considering something similar.
The High Weald Partnership secured the cash to restore ancient hedgerows and plant trees in the AONB. Funding came from the National Grid’s landscape enhancement initiative (LEI).
Over the next three years, the partnership will work with 10 landowners in the Wealden and Rother districts of East Sussex to rejuvenate ancient hedgerows. Gerry Sherwin, the partnership’s business manager, said work which met the National Grid objectives had already been agreed with landowners along the length of the line from Herstmonceux in East Sussex to Potmans Heath in Kent. “Landowners have been infomed about the amount of money from the fund they will have to do the previously identified work,” Ms Sherwin said.
The work will concentrate on a three kilometre boundary around the power lines. Particular effort will go on locations where the lines can be seen from the area’s extensive network of public rights of way including promoted paths such as the 1066 Walk and the Sussex Border Path. Other planned activities include fencing woodland to prevent damage to rare plants by grazing animals and planting hedges and trees.
The project is designed to increase enjoyment of the landscape for residents and visitors to the area and also to create more varied and rich habitats for a greater number of bird, mammal and invertebrate species.
Jason Lavender, High Weald co director, said: “The High Weald AONB is an internationally important landscape characterised by a mosaic of interconnected small woods, fields, shaws and hedges – a significant portion of which are ancient and species rich. We know how costly it is for landowners to properly maintain these historic features, so we’re delighted to have secured this funding from the LEI to support the ‘Beautiful Boundaries’ project.
The LEI has set aside up to £24 million to support small scale landscape projects in the 30 AONBs and national parks across England and Wales that contain existing National Grid electricity infrastructure. The initiative is part of the visual impact provision project, which will make use of a £500 million allowance made available by Ofgem until 2021. In addition, National Grid is progressing plans under this allowance to replace existing overhead lines with underground cables in four protected landscapes.