Campaigners fear energy giant SSE is preparing to build another major power line similar to the controversial Beauly-Denny network which was bitterly opposed by conservationists and walkers.
They fear the Perth-based firm is behind proposals for a 400kV powerline to be carried on 200ft high pylons from Beauly, Inverness-shire, to Blackhillock near Keith, a town in the old Banffshire which is now part of Moray,
That would be about half the 137-mile length of the Beauly-Denny line which faced stern opposition from environmentalists and a public inquiry.
SSE has denied that there are any firm plans for another transmission line at the moment, but accepted a link between Beauly and Keith could be “one possible future scenario”.
Strathdearn Against Windfarm Developments claims that SSE subsiduary Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHE-T) plans to construct the new powerline.
Strathdearn is the name given to the rural area comprising Moy, Dalarossie and Tomatin, lying on both sides of the A9 about 15 miles south of Inverness.
The campaigners claim it is known that three route options are under consideration. One of these would run from Beauly to Keith via Tomatin and then cross the River Findhorn valley, the Slochd hills and the Dava Moor.
Co-ordinator Pat Wells said: “The very last thing we want is a huge ugly power line like the Beauly-Denny line now ravaging the Drumochter hills and Perthshire. Strathdearn residents and people across the world with connections to the area are already fighting to prevent the construction of a large electricity substation at Garbole, in the heart of the River Findhorn Valley.
“To blight our hills and glens with an even bigger power line adds insult to injury. In particular it would totally destroy the unique landscape of Strathdearn – a wild, secluded glen cherished by local residents and thousands of people worldwide. It would also inflict serious financial damage on Tomatin, surrounding villages and the wider Highland and Grampian areas whose economy is so dependent on nature, recreation tourism and field sports. ”
Mrs Wells said survey work had been ongoing for many months in Strathdearn and on the surrounding hills. SSE had claimed this was connected with the Beauly -Tomatin line reinforcement, but campaigners did not believe this.
She said: “The perceived need for another 400kV line like Beauly-Denny is indicative of the SNP’s plans to blanket the Scottish countryside with wind turbines.”
She questioned whether the people of Scotland really wanted to see “their unique and beautiful countryside ruined.”
SSE denied there was any firm plan for another transmission line. However, the company said it had to look into the future and consider what connections to the grid might be needed. Under the terms of SSE’s licence wind farms and other developments that had been approved had to be connected to the grid network.
A spokeswoman said: “One possible future scenario might mean a link between Beauly and Keith. We have made no secret of this. But it is just a potential option. It is not something for just now.
“It is something we might need to be looking at into the next decade. But we don’t know whether a 400kV would be needed. We don’t know what the design or the height of the pylons might be.”
She said that by the time this might be needed the whole design of pylons, and so on, might have changed.” She added they had no list of three preferred routes.
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