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Highland communities 'under siege' over 400kV power line plans

By Alan Hendry

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Lyndsey Ward (left) and Denise Davis from Communities B4 Power Companies. Picture: Callum Mackay
Lyndsey Ward (left) and Denise Davis from Communities B4 Power Companies. Picture: Callum Mackay

Rural communities feel "under siege" over the plans for a major power line and new substations in the Highlands, campaigners have warned.

Communities B4 Power Companies (CB4PC) says proposals for the 400kV line between Caithness and Inverness-shire, along with other large-scale energy infrastructure, have caused "alarm, distress and disgust" across the region.

In an email to Highland councillors, CB4PC says it wants a moratorium on further wind turbines, substations, battery storage schemes and overhead lines "until need is irrefutably proven".

SSEN Transmission is planning the new line between Spittal, Loch Buidhe and Beauly, with new substations at each location. The company says it is part of a major upgrade of the electrical transmission system across Britain which is needed to help deliver UK and Scottish Government climate change targets and secure the country’s future energy independence.

There are concerns in rural areas that the proposed "mega" pylons will be more than twice as tall as the existing ones.

In an email to Highland councillors dated September 25, Mrs Ward, a founding member of CB4PC, wrote: "I am writing to you to draw your attention to the alarm, distress and disgust across the Highlands to the industrial concrete and steel roadshow engulfing communities across rural Scotland.

"We are currently seeing an unprecedented onslaught of offshore-sized wind turbines, gargantuan pylons, overhead lines, massive substations and battery storage facilities proposed in our beloved natural environment.

"Under the pretence of ‘saving the planet’, ruthless and wealthy multinationals are dropping application after application into our already burdened local authority. It would appear to be a deliberate strategy to overwhelm and demoralise rural citizens. It is no exaggeration to say we feel under siege.

"There is no evidence whatsoever that what is being proposed will change what the climate does and developers spread fear by telling us we have to accept their industrial carnage or risk an apocalypse.

"It is time to demand evidence for everything developers tell us to promote their applications and not just roll over and succumb to industry propaganda."

Mrs Ward pointed out that CB4PC was formed in the spring in the aftermath of the SSEN public consultation on the Spittal/Beauly project.

"We instructed a planning policy expert and figures from Ofgem [the energy regulator] and the Scottish Government were analysed," she wrote. "The result? No – we don’t need any of this.

"Scotland already produces enough wind power for itself. We also have sufficient transmission for our needs. Although some upgrades could be necessary, new transmission lines are not."

She added: "It is time councillors questioned the ethics of such developments and demand to be shown that the ‘green’ credentials are indeed as clean as we are led to believe."

A similar version of the email was also sent to all MSPs and Scottish MPs on September 28.

SSEN Transmission has said the 400kV line is part of a massive upgrade that will support "thousands of highly skilled jobs" and bring "significant economic growth". The company has also reiterated that it will work closely with communities over the design of the scheme and is "actively considering alternative routes and mitigation measures" in some areas.

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