Work in and around Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve
Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve is a well visited and much-loved nature reserve on the doorstep of Portishead. Visitors are able to enjoy access to the wetland habitat, home to a variety of protected species including water voles, great crested newts and barn owls, as well as overwintering wildfowl and waders found on the pools and grazing marsh.
In April 2020, National Grid began work in the reserve as part of the Hinkley Connection Project. The new high-voltage electricity line will connect 6 million homes and businesses to low carbon energy from Hinkley Point C and increase capacity on the network for renewable energy.
Work in the reserve to date has involved changes to Western Power Distribution’s local network to make way for the new line, which will feature the world’s first T-pylons.
The undergrounding of cables through the reserve was completed in January and means that two lines of existing pylons running into Portishead substation from the south will be removed, with a planned start date of Autumn 2021.
National Grid return to the reserve this April. All construction activity, including stringent measures to protect wildlife and habitats, is monitored by North Somerset Council.
Preparing for T-pylons
Between April and September 2021, visitors to the reserve will see the following construction activity:
- Extending the existing temporary haul road east towards Wharf Lane and into the port
- Undergrounding a section of electricity cable to the east of Portishead substation
- Building a new pylon east of Portishead substation to connect the new underground cable and the overhead line
- Preparing work areas for the construction of T-pylons.
Work to start removing one of the electricity lines running into the substation from the south will begin after August 2021, with the dates to be confirmed, in line with the agreed construction period for work in the reserve.
2022 will see the removal of four WPD pylons east of the substation, plus piling, foundations and the construction of five T-pylons between Portbury One Hundred and the port – two pylons within the reserve.
National Grid will return to the reserve in early 2023 to clear vegetation ahead of installing cables between the T-pylons between April and September that year. The land will be fully reinstated in 2024.
Protecting local wildlife and habitats
To avoid disturbance to wintering birds and other wildlife, National Grid can only work in the reserve during certain months, which explains the company’s presence over a number of years.
The main construction period is April to September, though North Somerset Council may permit activity such as vegetation removal and other minor works outside these dates.
This is just one of many measures in place to protect this sensitive environment, which were agreed during consultation after thorough ecological surveys. So far National Grid has:
- Installed four new barn owl boxes
- Protected mature oak trees by diverting the original haul road route
- Saved and translocated over 300 great crested newts, over 340 toads, 600 smooth newts, and 5 palmate newts (only recorded once before in the reserve)
- Installed specialised fencing and cleared vegetation to prevent protected species from entering the construction areas
- Created new habitats and connections for water voles.
National Grid has also Improved the seasonal path and removed diseased elm trees at the request of the Council – this is a great example of partnership working between North Somerset Council and National Grid and helps improve the site for all.
“It’s vital that the important work to upgrade the power lines is done in a sensitive manner to protect the species found here and, if possible, actually enhance the habitat for the reserve’s wildlife,” says Iain MacFarlane, Reserve Warden.
“The positive working relationship between myself as Reserve Warden, North Somerset Council, National Grid and their contractors and ecologists, is ensuring disruption to visitors and wildlife is kept to a minimum, and the sensitive environment here is protected for generations to come,” adds Iain.
Access to and through the reserve
Access to the reserve during the work is being maintained, but to keep everyone safe some footpaths will need to be closed for a short time.
In April and June 2021, Wharf Lane will be subject to temporary closures then construction traffic crossing until work is completed. Please see information boards or visit www.hinkleyconnection.co.uk for details.
Elsewhere in North Somerset
Street works in Nailsea as part of the undergrounding of cables between Nailsea and Portishead substation are now complete.
The removal of WPD pylons between Sandford and Portishead will start in August 2021 with completion expected by the end of September.
Work begins on building T-pylons to the west of Nailsea from June 2021 with the construction of the temporary haul road. The erection of the main T-pylons structures is due to start by September 2022.
The new Sandford substation, which includes improvements to the Strawberry Line, is set for completion by the end of 2023.
Keeping up to date
Visit www.hinkleyconnection.co.uk for information about construction activity along the route and to register for updates.
If you have any concerns or questions, call National Grid’s dedicated 24-hour line on 0800 377 7347.