The power giant planning to double the size of hundreds of pylons running through the Highlands has been accused of arrogance and of pre-judging the public inquiry into the issue.
Objectors groups and landowners are furious that Scottish and Southern Energy has published a long list of potential compulsory purchase orders along the 137-mile route to accommodate the project.
They featured in public notices in newspapers last week and concern “wayleaves” – which promise landowners a fee for developer access – or an intent to compulsorily purchase stretches of land.
Andrew Fielden, who represents the family owners of the Ardverikie Estate, home of TV’s Monarch of the Glen and on the route, said: “We are not going to grant any wayleaves until the outcome of the inquiry.
“I think a number of other estates in the area are taking the same view. They’re asking for wayleaves for something they haven’t actually got planning consent for.
“If they compulsorily purchase in the meantime I think it rather negates the whole point of the inquiry.”
Eddie Hughes, chairman of Highlands Before Pylons, said: “This is indicative of SSE’s total ignorance towards the objectors’ feelings. They’re not giving the inquiry an opportunity to consider all the alternatives.
“It just emphasises the lack of democracy and power that the Electricity Act gives to transmission operators. Things like wayleaves should be properly negotiated. But SSE have been as heavy-handed as ever, making a mockery of consultation.”
Inverness councillor David Henderson, a development consultant formerly with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “My initial reaction is that there’s an arrogance here by SSE, a prejudgment of the outcome of the inquiry. It’s almost an abuse of corporate power and the publicity has been minimal.” SSE spokesman Julian Reeves summed up the criticism that the company was premature or presumptuous by advertising compulsory purchase orders during the inquiry as “mischief-making” and “absolute nonsense”.
He said: “This is being driven by the Scottish Executive who’ve taken the very sensible approach that, while we’re carrying out the local hearings as part of the public inquiry, for example the one in Inverness, the same (executive) reporters should also listen to any hearings in respect of compulsory purchases or wayleaves associated with the line at the time.
“It doesn’t presume anything because at the end of the day if the result of the inquiry is that we should not build we just walk away from everything.
“It is commonsense that the executive uses the same reporters to hear not only the evidence for and against the overhead line, but also the evidence in respect of the compulsory purchases.”
He added: “We will continue to work to reach voluntary agreement with as many landowners as possible.”
Responding to complaints that notice of the orders was limited, he insisted company had adhered to stipulated levels of advertising and that the company was also speaking directly with all the landowners affected.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority is, meanwhile, writing to the public inquiry reporters’ unit to press for a transcript of daily proceedings to be published to make the hearing more accessible to people living along the route who cannot attend the Perth proceedings.
Badenoch East Councillor Gregor Rimell said: “It appears the company are taking for granted that they are going to get permission after the inquiry, so they are prejudging it.
“Is the public inquiry actually going to ask some sensible basic questions or is it going to provide a stage for SSE to get away with what they want to do?”
5 March 2007
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