The Challenge:

A programme of work to lay underground electricity cables to improve the reliability of services to the East of England, the South East and London is involving work in valuable ecological and historical areas, including under the River Orwell. When complete, the project will also improve the visual appearance of the landscape by hiding unsightly power cables underground, in areas of outstanding natural beauty and with special protection status.

Laying the new cables has involved drilling in areas where there were lizards and snakes, nesting skylarks, a school playing field, working farmland and even close to a site of archaeological interest where the foundations of an Iron Age fort were discovered. All these factors and many more had to be carefully managed as part of this project.

The Solution:

A full access plan was undertaken, as part of a cable works feasibility study, to carefully schedule the best time to undertake drilling work and to agree what activity should be taken to minimise the impact of the work.

So, for example, a four-month window was agreed for work around the river with additional restrictions on certain areas to allow for the movement of lizards and snakes in open grasslands. Similar time restrictions applied to agricultural land where valuable crop rotation was taking place and work near the school took place during the summer and Easter break.

Where there were major historical sites, timescales were altered to allow archaeological work to be completed to prevent damage to artefacts.

The Impact:

Around 21km of overhead lines were removed, improving the appearance of the landscape along the rivers and coastline. Delivery of the scheme has improved the resilience of the electricity system in the area.

With the help of the longest directional drilling work in the UK by Power Networks, two areas have been successfully linked by cabling under the rivers Orwell and Stour.

Throughout the project Kier maintained a positive relationship with stakeholders and the community, despite many different agendas coming to the fore.

" This project will increase the capacity to the area and meet its growing demands for decades to come. The project is very challenging, not least because we will be drilling beneath two rivers and laying more than 35km of cable in total "
Chris Sugars Project Manager UK Power Networks

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