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Fresh setback for massive pylons scheme


John Ross

PLANS to upgrade a line of electricity pylons through Scotland to carry power from proposed wind farms suffered a blow yesterday.

Councillors unanimously refused an application to extend an electricity substation at Balblair, near Beauly, to accommodate equipment needed for the upgrade of the line.

An application to replace a 132kV overhead transmission line with a 400kV line between Beauly and Denny, near Stirling, supported by about 600 pylons, some 20 metres higher than those they would replace, has already been rejected by Highland Council and other local authorities and is opposed by campaign groups.

The plan, by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission – a subsidiary of Scottish & Southern Electricity (SSE) – is set to go to a public inquiry which could start early next year.

The substation extension was also opposed by many local people, including Lord Lovat, Simon Fraser, who said he would refuse the electricity company access over his land.

Yesterday members of Highland Council’s Inverness area planning applications committee rejected the move to extend the station to the west of the existing facility. A similar plan to extend to the east was rejected in April.

The extension would cover an area of over 14 acres and require a new access junction on the A831 road. Work would have been phased over 130 weeks.

A report by council officials said the area to be extended would include an existing sand and gravel quarry and noise would be similar to that at the present operation.

It said while the extended substation would have an impact on the area it would be screened by trees.

But councillors backed objectors who complained the plan was premature while the proposal to upgrade the Beauly-Denny line has still to be resolved. It was also felt it would mean a loss of amenity and harm tourism.

David Henderson, a councillor who has opposed plans for the pylons upgrade, said: “This is a message to SSE that local people don’t want this. The line is controversial, the whole wind farm campaign is controversial and this proposed development is controversial.”

A spokeswoman for SSE said: “Today’s decision is disappointing, but we are considering the council’s position.”

The £200 million Beauly-Denny upgrade is considered to be vital for Scotland’s future energy needs. However, the plan has attracted opposition from four local authorities and the Cairngorms National Park Authority, as well as protest groups.

Opponents say high voltage overhead lines carry a potential health risk, can kill birds, spoil scenery and threaten property values. They have called for all or part of the new line to be put underground.