A CONTROVERSIAL plan which will see pylons removed from the Trans Pennine Trail at Dunford Bridge to redirect power cables underground has been approved - despite wildlife experts claiming the scheme will eradicate an at-risk bird from the local area.

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 project - dubbed the first of its kind in the world - will see eight pylons along a one-and-a-quarter mile stretch taken down and the power channelled through underground cables.

The scheme also scuppers 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.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust spoke against the plan at Tuesday’s virtual planning board meeting and blasted the loss of Wogden Foot’s wildlife.

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A spokesman said: “Approval of the site would undo a success story which has given Barnsley recognition across the country.

“Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is leading a national ‘back from the brink’ project on willow tits to protect and learn about them.

“Willow tits are the most endangered species in the UK, but we’ve still got a decent population in Barnsley and we’re getting visitors to come and look at them.

“They epitomise Barnsley’s fight back from its bleak, industrial past. Coal mining brought a lot of prosperity to Barnsley but when it left, it left a lot of habitat that needed improvement and we’ve done a lot of work on that.

“We’d love to see these pylons removed in a well-managed scheme, but this isn’t it. They are not more important than the extinction of a bird species.”

Joe Jenkinson, head of planning at Barnsley Council, told councillors of ten letters of support, and 47 objections to the scheme - though the plan was still unanimously approved.

He said: “There will be a temporary diversion on the TPT for 18 months but it will still be suitable for all users - they won’t be overly disrupted by it.

“The benefits of the scheme clearly outweigh the harm.”

The project is the second of National Grid’s four schemes to receive planning consent, following approval being granted for the project near Dorchester which is now under construction.

The proposal for a project in the Snowdonia National Park is expected to go before planning committees in July, while a planning application for another scheme in the North Wessex Downs is due for submission next year.

National Grid project manager, Michelle Clark, added: “Securing planning consent is an important step towards realising our plans to conserve and enhance this important landscape on the edge of the national park.

“National Grid has been working together on the proposals with local stakeholders including representatives from the Peak District National Park, Barnsley Council, Natural England, the Trans Pennine Trail Office and Dunford Parish Council.

“We will now seek to obtain other necessary permissions ahead of works starting on the site next year.”