A ’DAMAGING’ plan which could see pylons removed from a vast swathe of green belt in order to redirect several kilometres of power cables underground to the detriment of wildlife is set to be approved.

As part of a package with Ofgem, applicant National Grid received a share in a pot of £500m to mitigate visual impact of infrastructure at protected landscapes.

The scheme for the Trans Pennine Trail at Dunford Bridge - which has been earmarked for approval - will go before Barnsley Council’s planning board members on Tuesday and would see eight pylons along a one-and-a-quarter mile stretch taken down and the power channelled through underground cables if the green light is given.

The proposed line runs from a compound near the eastern entrance to the Woodhead Tunnel at Dunford Bridge and along the upper stretches of the River Don, towards the Peak District National Park’s boundary.

A council planning report said: “This particular proposal aims to reduce the visual impact of National Grid’s overhead line in and around the village of Dunford Bridge.

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“National Grid state that they chose this section as the removal of the pylons was identified by an independent landscape study as having some of the greatest beneficial impacts on landscape and visual amenity.

“Although the Trans Pennine Trail team have objected to the planning application, there will be no long-term impact on the route as an important cycleway and the wider benefits of this to communities.

“Disruption would be unavoidable during the construction phase and is mitigated in part by a diversion of the TPT and the construction of a temporary haulage road for around 18 months.”

However, naturalists - backed by multiple groups including Woodhead Railway Heritage Group and Barnsley Biodiversity Trust - have objected to the project on grounds that it would ‘destroy’ the area’s rich flora and fauna at a ‘much-loved’ nature reserve.

“It is quite a project and would disrupt this section of the trail for a long time,” said campaigner Doug Brown.

“But what concerns me is the wildlife aspect. It is a landscape issue but along the TPT orchids have become established and presumably these and other species will go.

“At the end is also Wogden Foot, a nature reserve, and this scheme will really destroy that.

“The National Grid has done surveys and it is clear this will impact heavily on the TPT and the reserve.

“I have done a straw poll and asked people going on to the trail if they noticed the pylons and no-one had.

“The National Grid want to open up the vista and I agree with that concept, but not at the expense of the wildlife.”

The scheme would also scupper rail campaigners’ ambitions to reopen Woodhead Tunnel to provide another rail link to Manchester, as railway infrastructure is unable to be built on top of underground cabling buried within the former trackbed.

A spokesperson from the National Grid added: “The aim is to achieve maximum enhancement to the landscape from available funds while ensuring no significant adverse impact as a result.”