Power engineers removing overhead lines on Roman snail alert

Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD) engineers working on a project to take down 1.5km of overhead power lines near Chedworth’s Roman villa were given an historically apt ecology brief – watch out for Roman snails!

Visitors driving to the Roman villa through the picturesque open countryside between Yanworth and Chedworth Woods will now have a clearer view thanks to the £120,000 project by SEPD to dismantle the overhead lines. And as Roman snails, also known as Helix pomatia* and the UK’s largest land snail, are often found in this part of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), engineers had to take special care they avoided any of the protected molluscs whilst they worked.

Twenty four spans of overhead power cable and 22 wooden poles have been taken down in the area and whilst the work was carried out a special ‘snail buffer zone’ was set up to make sure engineers stayed clear of any ground that may have contained snail colonies. With guidance from the local AONB team and an ADAS ecologist, who identified the snails whilst conducting a survey of the scheme route, the team carefully buried replacement underground cables in the surrounding fields. Once the cables were powered up, engineers were able to dismantle the overhead lines.

Chedworth Roman Villa, owned by the National Trust, boasts the ruins of one of the largest Romano-British villas in the country and includes some of the most impressive in-situ Roman mosaics.

Project manager Greg Moore from SEPD said: “This is a beautiful part of the Cotswolds with fantastic views across rolling countryside. Fields along this valley were crossed by the overhead power lines, and now we’ve removed this particular line, it looks a lot more in keeping with the surroundings. Our team was definitely on the snail trail while we worked but our buffer zone seemed to work well as we saw no evidence of the mighty molluscs!”

The project was funded by a special allowance, granted to SEPD by industry regulator Ofgem, to invest in projects to underground power lines in AONBs and National Parks in central southern England.

Martin Lane, Director at the Cotswolds Conservation Board, said: “The Conservation Board is very pleased to have worked with SEPD to improve the appearance of this beautiful part of the Cotswolds landscape. We are involved with a number of similar schemes in the Cotswolds, all of which will make a significant contribution to enhancing the natural beauty of the Area.”

For further information contact Emma Mason or Sara Bartlett in the SEPD press office on 0845 0760 530.

Notes to Editors:

Southern Electric Power Distribution operates the high and low voltage electricity network that distributes electricity to around 2.9 million customers across central southern England. It is part of the SSE group.

Cotswolds Conservation Board is the organisation that exists to conserve and enhance the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Cotswolds AONB was designated in 1966 in recognition of its rich, diverse and high quality landscape.

*Roman snails can live for up to 20 years and grow up to 45mm wide. Experts believe they were introduced into the UK by the Romans. They can be found in the Chilterns, North Downs, and the Cotswold and Mendip fringes. Roman snails are protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act and it is illegal to intentionally kill, handle or possess without a licence from Natural England.

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