Clan chief Lord Lovat flew from Switzerland to Inverness yesterday to warn that constructing “monster pylons” would seriously damage the tourist industry in the old Fraser country at the head of the Beauly Firth.
Simon Fraser’s family, who have been in the area for more than 700 years, no longer owns all the land they once did. But the 30-year-old Harrow-educated clan chief, who works as an investment manager in Geneva, said he felt it important he appeared at the public inquiry into the Beauly/ Denny powerline.
He wanted to emphasise local opposition, not least from the tenants who live in the 61 houses still owned by Lovat Highland Estates Ltd. He also wanted to promote the placing of the power line underground.
He told the inquiry he was not opposed to the development of renewable energy projects such as wind farms in the Highlands and Islands.
Under the £320m proposal submitted to the Scottish Executive by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Scottish Power, there would be 600 pylons, 200 fewer than the existing 132,000-volt line but much higher, up to 213ft.
There would also have to be massive expansion of the electricity substation at Balblair on land in which his family still retained an interest. He would oppose a compulsory purchase order because the area of land being sought was excessive for what was required. He warned the inquiry: “There is already a disproportionate number of lines and pylons in the Beauly area compared to anywhere else in the Highlands. This burden will increase even further with the proposed 400,000-volts overhead line from Beauly to Denny and the expansion of the switching station. There is no local interest served whatsoever by these developments.”
“The community is suffering the consequences of policies made elsewhere which enable the applicants and those generating renewable energy in the Highlands and Islands to make substantial profits. It would seem only fair the proposed line and future lines be buried to compensate for this inequitable situation.”
He said there was a strong sense of community in the Beauly area, with many families having been there for many generations. The community felt tremendous pride in its connection with the land and its local history. Nobody wanted “to see these lands blighted by monster pylons”.
He added: “The most important industry in the Highlands is tourism. It is essential we safeguard the area’s scenery, wildlife and historical significance.
“There is no economic case in destroying these qualities. Undergrounding is the only method by which tourism and electricity transmission can properly co-exist.
“The cost of undergrounding may seem considerable to the applicant but we believe the cost to the reputation and economy of the Highlands of no undergrounding will be far, far greater and will be borne for generations to come.”
By David Ross
1 June 2007
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