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Lord's fear over SSE plans for future  

One of the leading campaigners against plans to upgrade pylons through the heart of the Highlands yesterday warned that power giant Scottish and Southern Energy could be planning to construct more power lines from Beauly.

Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, claims SSE are using a compulsory purchase order to buy more land from his Beauly estate than they need for the massive pylon upgrade planned to stretch to Denny in Stirlingshire.

He believes that, if all the plans for windfarms north of Beauly get the go-ahead, there would not be enough pylons to carry the electricity from the Balblair switching station to the rest of Scotland. And he reckons SSE are quietly preparing for that eventuality.

Around 26% of the Lovat family’s 5,298 acres would be affected by the Beauly-Denny line, including part of Ruttle Wood and Fanellan Wood, according to a document submitted to the local inquiry yesterday.

Speaking after giving evidence, Lord Lovat said: “With the kind of momentum renewable energy has, this could be the first of perhaps (an additional) four lines coming from Beauly.

“SSE are trying to compulsory purchase more land than is needed from the Lovat Estate for this one line. There is much more land than is needed.”

The investment banker, who travelled from Geneva, Switzerland, to speak at the inquiry, said his uncle, Kim Fraser, will raise the issue at a later stage in the hearing when the proposed expansion of the Balblair substation is discussed.

He welcomed the opportunity to speak at day three of the local phase of the inquiry in Inverness, but he added his voice to the increasing volume of calls for the power line to be laid underground.

Giving evidence to senior inquiry reporter Timothy Brian, he said Lovat Estates had a “long tradition” of co-operating with SSE, giving permission to the then-Hydro Board to construct the Balblair switching station and for four hydro schemes.

He added: “If the design of a transmission system is appropriate, there need not be any negative impact on tourism in the area. 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 that the cost to the reputation and economy of the Highlands of not undergrounding will be far, far greater.”

A spokesman for Scottish and Southern Energy refused to comment.

The Press and Journal

1 June 2007

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