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Charity's anger at pylons probe

A leading conservation charity has provided MSPs of all parties with documents it claims prove that the Scottish Executive’s costly public inquiry into the Beauly-Denny pylon proposals is weighted in the developers’ favour, and urged the politicians to intervene.

A week before the year-long £7million hearing resumes in Newtonmore to focus on the local implications of Scottish and Southern Energy’s proposed power line replacement, the John Muir Trust (JMT) has armed MSPs with accounts from each side of the debate which it claims verify inconsistencies in the way the three-man “reporters unit” has allowed transmission firm Shetl privileges that were not granted to representatives of the 18,000 objectors. The charity’s policy officer, Helen McDade, complains that “the procedural irregularities go from bad to worse”.

She reaffirms a much-recounted complaint that, at various stages of the process, objectors have had insufficient time to digest vast documents submitted at late notice by Scottish and Southern Energy and Shetl, while claiming to prove that the same deadlines have not been applied to the developers. This has left lay people ill-prepared to face barristers representing the electricity giants.

Ms McDade has told MSPs that “the principles of equity and fairness have been breached time and again”.

A spokeswoman for the executive said: “We won’t comment during an inquiry process.”

In July, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser told the Press and Journal he had scrapped plans to attend the hearing because of his “grave concerns” at the way the process has been handled.

The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP was due to represent residents concerned about the visual impact of the pylons but decided it would be “a fruitless exercise”, describing the event as “utterly discredited” and in need of ministerial intervention.

The Press and Journal

20 August 2007