BEAUTY spots in the Lake District and north Lancashire could be scarred by giant pylons needed to transfer electricity from a new generation of low carbon power plants.

High-voltage cables are needed by 2020 to connect nuclear power stations, such as Sellafield and Heysham, and offshore windfarms to the national grid.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change told The Westmorland Gazette that many of Britain’s power stations were nearing the end of their lives.

“We will need new infrastructure in the coming years if we want to keep the lights on and reduce our carbon emissions,” he said.

Jeanette Unsworth, National Grid spokesperson, confirmed it had been asked to provide connections to a number of new generators in Cumbria and Lancashire.

But she said it was too early to say where the new infrastructure would be routed, or how.

“New infrastructure is likely to involve overhead transmission power lines, underground cables and new substations,” she said.

The company is currently researching technical and environmental information to help it assess how connections might be built, prior to a full public consultation at the end of this year.

“The company will seek to explain the rationale behind the identification of the options to be considered and seek the views and opinions of local residents, community groups, elected representatives and statutory bodies,” added Ms Unsworth.

Jack Ellerby, policy officer at Friends of the Lake District, said they were already in talks with National Grid about the possible effect on Cumbria.

“The existing grid needs upgrading so we need new infrastructure but we are going to be pushing to minimise the impact on the Lake District National Park,” said Mr Ellerby.

He said said one possible solution could be the positioning of an under-sea cable which would pick up energy from windfarms off the coast of southern Scotland.

“We’ve been told that it might be very expensive but we need to see the data on that first,” added Mr Ellerby.

Lucy Barron, manager of Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), said the possibility of more pylons in scenic locations was a concern.

“We will be an important consultee involved in determining the route corridoors,” she said. “We have been engaging with National Grid for quite a long period so we are fully involved in the process.

“National Grid have got a duty to have regard for the proposals for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

When considering the positioning of power pylons, guidelines known as the Holford Rules, which were first drawn up in 1959, are considered by planning inspectors.

They state that overhead lines should “avoid altogether, if possible, the major areas of highest amenity value.”

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) considers all applications but a spokesman said as of yet, no organisation had applied to undertake such a project in Cumbria or Lancashire.

National Grid officials could seek planning permission to build new infrastructure within three years.