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High voltage power lines to be moved underground and light pollution to be minimised in South Oxfordshire

In light of its priority to protect and restore the natural world, South Oxfordshire District Council has agreed to take action to try and minimise light pollution in the district, and to work with partners to see if some high voltage power lines could be hidden from view and moved underground.

The two issues were discussed as part of separate motions that were debated at a full meeting of South Oxfordshire District Council on Thursday 25th March. Both motions were agreed by councillors.

Cllr Peter Dragonetti proposed a motion calling for high voltage power lines to be installed underground as part of the Local Plan 2035. It also calls for the power lines dissecting Didcot’s Ladygrove Estate to be buried underground by 2050.

Cllr Jo Robb proposed a separate motion that noted the harmful impacts of light pollution on human health and sleep, biodiversity and carbon emissions. It highlighted the need to provide infrastructure that ensures dark skies are possible and limits light pollution.

Both motions are part of the council’s efforts to work towards the priorities outlined in the Corporate Plan, particularly to protect and restore the natural world and take action on the climate emergency. These motions also fit with the Corporate Plan priority that outlines how the council will provide homes and infrastructure that meet people’s needs by ensuring: “spatial planning embeds public health, well-being and sustainability.”


Full wording of the motion on high voltage power lines proposed by Councillor Dragonetti, seconded by Councillor Robb:

Council recognises the importance of a high-quality, beautiful natural environment for current and future residents of our rural District, and the negative impact that high voltage power lines can have on visual amenity. Council also acknowledges the importance of landscape beauty to the setting of the historic city of Oxford. Council identifies that the economic benefit of providing beautiful environments for housing development provides a long lasting benefit that enhances the long term value of a location, attracting the workforce needed to sustain the growth of the local economy. Three of the strategic sites allocated in South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan 2035 are overhung by high voltage power lines. Grenoble Road, Culham and Northfield.

This Council will:

1. Work with partners including National Grid, electricity providers, developers, landowners, and other local authorities, to explore all options including financing options for the undergrounding of all high voltage overhead powerlines over the strategic sites in the Local Plan 2035, with a view to requiring that these sites have active plans for the removal of overhead high voltage power lines before 2040.

2. Have, as a long-term ambition by 2050, the undergrounding of the existing 400kv line that bisects the Ladygrove Estates in Didcot.

Full wording of the motion on light pollution proposed by Cllr Robb and seconded by councillor Gillespie

Council notes the growing body of evidence demonstrating the harmful impacts of light pollution on human health and sleep, biodiversity and carbon emissions. A literature review from Nature magazine in 2018 concludes that: “light at night is exerting pervasive, long term stress on ecosystems, from coasts to farmland to 5 urban waterways, many of which are already suffering from other, more well-known forms of pollution” Light pollution is not only damaging our physical and mental health, it is also harming plants, insects and nocturnal animals and is eroding the most primal of connections: the deep sense of awe and wonder we experience at the sight of a starry sky. Council acknowledges the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dark Skies and welcomes its recommendations. Council recognises that Oxfordshire County Council controls lighting schemes on adopted highways.

This Council will:

1. Ensure that limiting light pollution and preserving dark skies are key priorities for planning policies and design guides, including master-planning of sites.

2. Work with Neighbourhood Planning groups to encourage the implementation of dark sky friendly lighting policies in Neighbourhood Plans.

3. Encourage the incorporation of dark sky friendly lighting schemes and avoid unnecessary lighting for all new development.

4. Write to MPs and government calling for the APPG’s ten recommendations on dark skies to be implemented through new legislation and reform of the planning system. These recommendations include reform of the NPPF to make extensive and specific reference to control of obtrusive light and to introduce strict regulation of exterior lighting, setting standards for brightness, colour and temperature of all lighting and empowering local authorities to stop nuisance lighting.

5. Work proactively with partners, Oxfordshire County Council as Highway Authority and others, to highlight the importance of dark skies, the need to limit the impact of lighting and to encourage policies to reflect best practice in lighting design.

6. Use our communications channels to increase understanding among residents and businesses of the importance of dark skies and limiting light pollution.