Bosses at the power firm National Grid have refused to confirm reports that they have ditched plans to erect huge pylons in the Lake District.

There were unconfirmed reports at the weekend that the firm has revised its plans for high-voltage power lines that will carry electricity from the new nuclear power plant that is to be built at Moorside, near Sellafield.

Plans for the 160ft high pylons across the western Lake District triggered a furious response from opponents – including the celebrated UK based American author Bill Bryson, who has said such a superb landscape should be cherished.

According to a national newspaper report published at the weekend, a 20 mile stretch of cables from Moorside will now be buried, sparing the Lake District from the blight of unsightly towering pylons.

Even so, burying the power cables will involve digging miles of ditches - up to 1.5m wide and 1.2m deep.

One of the problems with burying cables, though, is the expense, with one estimate suggesting that this option will cost up to £450m, potentially adding 40p a year to the average household electricity bill.

Asked about the claims, a spokeswoman for National Grid refused to comment or say whether the decision to bury the cables in the National Park had been made.

She said: "We are continuing to have conversations with people about the shape of the project and these are informing our plans for the next stage of consultation.”

But Martin Forwood, from Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (Core), said the entire Moorside project was ill-conceived from the outset.

He said: “It seems a nonsense. If they do erect these pylons, inside or outside the National Park, it will be because of Moorside. If this project did not happen there would be no need for pylons.

“Renewable energy sources would produce more electricity and more jobs over the next 30 to 50 years than Moorside.

"We all know from previous National Grid open days that underground cables are significantly more expensive. So why doesn't the developer pay for it but the entire project is unnecessary."

Meanwhile, Mr Bryson has publicly backed the Friends of the Lake District’s campaign against the pylons.

In an earlier statement, he said: “This is one of the finest landscapes on the planet. “It should be cherished and nurtured, not used as a convenient shortcut for business interests."

National Grid has repeatedly said it will continue its conversations on the project with local communities.

The company has already agreed to remove 45 existing pylons from around the country, putting the power cables underground as part of a £500m visual impact provision project.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed has said that Moorside and the proposal tidal lagoon off the west Cumbrian coast should become central planks of the UK's industrial strategy in the future.

The nuclear plant is expected to create 21,000 jobs during its lifetime.