Scottish Power has rejected calls to bury a proposed power line because the cost outweighed the benefit, a planning inspector has heard.
The latest stage of the conjoined public inquiry into five separate windfarms and a pylon route reopened in Welshpool last week.
The focus of the discussion was Scottish Power’s plan to build a 132kv power line from Llandinam to Welshpool, which would controversially travel across the Kerry Ridgeway.
The line is required to connect the proposed ‘repowering’ of Llandinam Windfarm to the national grid.
Giving evidence, Eric Leavy, Scottish Power’s head of design, told planning inspector Andrew Poulter that work on the design for the line had begun in August 2007 following a request from CeltPower for a grid connection for its Llandinam project.
The inquiry heard that the proposed line, which will be constructed of heavy duty wooden poles, will cost £13.6 million.
Mr Leavy said they had rejected demands to bury the line because it would be too expensive.
He told the inquiry that it had been considered for one portion of the route but that undergrounding would have added another £6.5 million to the final cost of the line.
He said: “The view we have is there is insufficient benefit from undergrounding to outweigh the costs.”
Mr Leavy also rejected a Powys County Council suggestion for an alternative route which it claimed would cost significantly less.
He described it as “completely impractical,” and said “the cost may be less but the benefit would also be less.”
During his evidence Mr Leavy dismissed accusations that the scheme had been given preferential treatment because it came from Scottish Power’s own renewable energy firm – CeltPower.
He said: “I am trying to be polite. The damage that such an activity would cause to our reputation if it were true is really unthinkable for a monopoly provider such as SP Manweb. We would be wide open to accusations from other customers and providers.”
He added: “We have to be absolutely pristine in our position to make sure we do not compromise our customers.”
Mr Leavy told the inquiry that they would be able to begin taking the power line down within two years of being told it is no longer required.
The question was put to him on the basis that the Llandinam Windfarm is only proposed to have a lifespan of 25 years.
Under cross examination from Powys County Council’s representative, Simon Bird, Mr Leavy admitted that the company had agreed to provide the line for CeltPower in 2007 without public consultation or a formal environmental assessment.
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