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Anger at ‘barbaric’ Garva Bridge substation plans

Plans to build a giant electricity substation at a historic Highland beauty spot are “nothing less than barbaric”, according to a leading Scottish mountaineer.

Avid hillwalker, climber and outdoors enthusiast Cameron McNeish has said he is “horrified” at proposals to build a substation on a 25-acre site near a 300-year-old bridge used by Bonnie Prince Charlie during the 1745 Jacobite uprising.

The scheme will be near Garva Bridge on the Corrieyairack Pass, to link a controversial new “city-sized” wind farm to the Beauly to Denny power line.

The double-arched bridge was constructed by General George Wade’s army in 1731 as part of a military road linking Dalwhinnie to Fort Augustus.

Mr McNeish said: “The old Wade-built bridge and nearby barracks are of great historical importance. To further deface the area with an industrial proposal like this would be nothing less than barbaric.”

The substation, at the end of a ten-mile line of pylons, will provide a link for the wind farm at Stronelairg ,near Fort Augustus.

Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, the energy firm behind the project, has notified Highland Council that it intends to apply for planning permission.

Newtonmore-based Mr McNeish said: “The latest plan from the power company – made public just a couple of days before Christmas – will completely transform an area of land that is loved by many, an area that lies only metres from the boundary of the Cairngorm National Park.”

Scottish ministers gave the go-ahead for the wind farm at Stronelairg last summer, despite strong opposition.

Mr McNeish added: “Blinkered supporters of renewable energy often seem to forget that new power sources will need new methods of carrying all that new power, so we are likely to see not only wind farms and bulldozed roads in otherwise wild areas of Scotland, but more lines of electricity pylons too.”

The John Muir Trust, a charity campaigning to protect wild places, has lodged a petition for a judicial review of Stronelairg.

The charity says erecting the 67-turbine wind farm – which will cover an area one-and-a-half times the size of Inverness in the heart of the Monadhliath mountains – goes against a “national interest” objection from the government’s own nature agency.

Helen McDade, head of policy at the trust, said: “It will mean massive desecration not only of the great central plateau of the Monadhliath mountains, but also of iconic cultural landmarks such as the Corrieyairack Pass and Garva Bridge.”

A spokeswoman for Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission said the firm is legally required to provide developers with connections to the national grid.