The Scottish Government has approved a controversial power line project – prompting fury from campaigners who wanted to protect the countryside.
Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) have been given the go-ahead to hook the Dorenell windfarm near Dufftown to the national grid with a 14-mile stretch of poles.
But outraged locals called for the cables to be put underground to preserve the natural beauty of Speyside’s moorland.
Last night they were dismayed at the Scottish Government’s decision to back the scheme, and claimed the energy firm’s consultation had been a “tick box exercise”.
Up to 135 poles that are 78ft tall will now be dropped into location by helicopter as part of the project that will stretch from Blackhillock near Keith to the 59 wind turbines.
SSEN has insisted they have included measures designed to reduce the impact on the natural environment, and said last night they would now be preparing for the construction phase.
Dufftown bed and breakfast owner Alistair Jeffs said: “We’re devastated. Some months ago about 30 of us had a meeting with the firm to talk about our concerns. They promised to consider them and report back – they never have.
“It’s the same old story, it’s just a tick box exercise. They can say they’ve come to see us and taken our views into account but they haven’t.
“People come here for the scenery – the drive from Dufftown to Huntly is stunning. It’s just becoming more and more covered with pylons and turbines though.
“They say they can’t put the cables underground because it’s too costly but they won’t give the costs though.”
Throughout the process SSEN has insisted they cannot put the cables underground because they are obligated to deliver best-value for the publicly-funded scheme.
Moray Council’s planning committee refused to back the proposals amid calls more consideration should be given to bury the power line out of sight.
The plans also attracted opposition from Forestry Commission Scotland after it was revealed 163 acres of ancient trees would be chopped down. The power firm later offered to replant the felled woodland.
Colin Mackenzie, who lives near the 15th century Auchindoun Castle, submitted a 26-page objection document after
learning the cables would pass within a mile from the landmark.
He said: “The principal reason for tourists to come to this area are whisky, castles and landscape. Dufftown’s commerce and economy is heavily dependent on them.
“To allow two out of the three of these to be degraded would be working directly against the efforts going in nationally and locally.
“How disappointing will it be for future visitors to have to follow the transmission line up the glen and through the Ballach gateway into the Cabrach?”
In their findings, Scottish Government planners concluded the impact on the environment was outweighed by the benefits of the power line once mitigation measures were considered.
Paul Higginbotham, SSEN’s lead project manager, said: “In our application for consent we identified and committed to environmental mitigation such as compensatory woodland planting and a detailed environmental management plan which
will ensure construction impacts are minimised.
“We will now prepare for the construction phase and are fully committed to keeping the local community and other interested parties updated as the project progresses.”