A controversial power line planned for 140 miles of dramatic Scottish scenery will “deflower” one of the country’s most iconic mountains, according to a leading conservation group.
The John Muir Trust has warned that the proposed Beauly-to-Denny upgrade will swathe Schiehallion in a “wirescape” of steel pylons and disfigure the land around what is one of Scotland’s most distinctive peaks.
The trust owns the 3553ft “Fairy Hill of the Caledonians” and will raise its objections at the public inquiry into the proposal to construct the 136-mile transmission line. The hearing opened in Perth in February and returned to the city this week.
The trust has owned East Schiehallion since 1999 and is bitterly opposed to plans by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), which wants to upgrade the existing line and replace it with 60-metre pylons, each the size of the Wallace monument.
The scheme will run along the eastern slopes of Schiehallion, which stands between Loch Rannoch, Loch Tay and Loch Tummel.
Nigel Hawkins, the trust’s director, said: “This monstrous development could end up sweeping across views to and from the fairy mountain, one of Scotland’s best-loved landmarks. If allowed to go ahead it will deflower Schiehallion, degrade Scotland’s image abroad and do untold damage to the tourist industry.”
The trust estimates that up to 20,000 people walk the recently completed path on the mountain every year. It is concerned that the visitor experience will be greatly affected once this spectacular scenery has been reduced to a wirescape of steel pylons.
“We have invested heavily in the repair of the path to the summit of Schiehallion to return the mountain to its former beauty. More than £800,000 was raised from government bodies and the general public to enhance this iconic mountain,” Mr Hawkins said.
In a submission to the inquiry, he points out that, according to Perth and Kinross Council, the landscape, scenery and environment are the most important influences in the choice of Scotland and Perth and Kinross as a holiday destination. The council, which is also opposing the scheme, has already raised its concerns that the proposed line could make the area less attractive to tourists when nearly 14% of the workforce in Perthshire is employed in the tourism industry.
“If we denigrate this wild land we risk permanently damaging the tourist industry,” added Mr Hawkins.
The trust argues that there is evidence that the Beauly-Denny pylon line is not even needed to meet the increasing demand from wind developments in the north of Scotland. According to former chairman of ScottishPower, Sir Donald Miller, and economist, Professor Andrew Bain, the existing grid could be easily strengthened to meet Scotland’s 2020 renewable targets.
Since the start of the public inquiry SSE has refused to comment. A spokesman said yesterday: “The public inquiry is the right place for all arguments to be aired and examined.”
By David Ross
17 October 2007
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