Campaigners fighting for a mains electricity supply to their remote homes have been given costings for the necessary work.
The Journal reported last week how people living on farms in the Upper Coquet Valley of Northumberland, who have no mains electricity, had gathered more than 450 signatures on a petition calling for county council support.
Yesterday, it emerged that the residents had been given estimates of how much the necessary work would cost.
There was further good news as it also emerged their landlords have made a business case for funding towards the work.
However, there was some bad news as National Park bosses hinted that they may object to any overground works, a move which would trigger an inquiry, as they do not want “clutter” in one of England’s most unspoilt areas.
The 21 farms are on land within the Otterburn Training Area, owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Residents must rely on generators and other means of power but say their supplies are expensive and unreliable, and hinder their work plans.
They have been working with various bodies in a bid to have a mains supply brought to their homes.
The residents also set up the petition calling on Northumberland County Council to help.
The signatures went before a meeting of the authority’s petitions committee yesterday, attended by residents and representatives from the MoD, Northumberland National Park Authority and Northern Power Grid (NPG).
During the debate, it emerged that NPG had produced costings for the work required to provide mains electricity to the homes. This was said to be £490,000 for underground work or £390,000 for overhead work, although the meeting was told the cost of the former could reduce to £340,000 if residents assisted with digging of trenches.
The meeting also heard that the MoD has made a business case for some funding towards the cost of the work, although it was stated that the “purse strings” are held at Whitehall rather than Otterburn.
However, National Park chief executive Tony Gates raised the prospect of there having to be an inquiry as he suggested the authority would object to any overground works.
Mr Gates said: “It is complex, it is not straight forward.
“It is National Park, it is one of Europe’s finest landscapes. Upper Coquet is one of Europe’s finest landscapes for obvious reasons.”
The authority boss said his organisation is opposed to “clutter” in the park. “Given that this is a protected landscape, where feasible, those power lines should be underground.”
He went on to say that a decision on any proposed work would be determined by the government, with the authority as a statutory consultee.
“If Northumberland National Park objected that would trigger an inquiry.”
County councillor for Rothbury, Steven Bridgett, called on the National Park to provide funding towards underground work.
Derek Fairbairn, from NPG, told the meeting he believed “most” of the wires could be laid underground.
The committee ultimately agreed to give “officer support and expertise” to the groups concerned.
After the meeting, resident Shona Anderson said the costs presented would allow them “to move forward with funding.”