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Huge Loch Ness hydro development returns to Highland Council for consideration

By Scott Maclennan

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The Red John pumped hydro scheme has been resubmitted to Highland Council after previously being described as “the worst application” ever encountered.

Ili Ltd's £625 million scheme located above Dores drew the ire of councillors over the lack of details about traffic, safety and the visual impact on the scenic Great Glen.

Despite that, planning officers who have reviewed some of the changes to the proposal recommended members "to raise no objection."

The plans call for water being drawn from Loch Ness to supply a new upper reservoir through an underground pump turbine hall and an above ground substation.

Changes attempt to address some of the traffic concerns such by arranging a park-and-ride at the Caley Thistle Stadium for some of the almost 400 workers.

According to the report: “With the use of a park-and-ride facility, traffic on the local road network will increase by 10.1 per cent per day for cars and 23 per cent per day for LGVs over current traffic levels.

"This is significantly lower than the increase in traffic movements without the park and ride.

“The originally assessed increase in traffic on the local road network was 68 per cent increase in car movements and 146 per cent increase in LGV movements above the current level of vehicle movements.”

When the plans came to the south planning committee in August councillors baulked when the lack of information became apparent.

At the time, they objected rather than refusing the application – fearing being overruled by Scottish ministers in Edinburgh – and called for a public local inquiry.

Former councillor Richard Laird tore into the application which was heard a week after the failure of Whaley Bridge dam in the Peak District caused a town to be evacuated.

Speaking at the time he wanted to know why a breach analysis assessment was not shared for the Loch Ness scheme as Dores would be washed away if there was a structural problem.

He said: “We have got a three paragraph section which contains the bemusing phrase that ‘based on estimated annual probability of failure of the embankment the fatality rates are classed as being within a broadly acceptable number’.

“Could I ask what is a ‘broadly acceptable’ number of fatalities?”

At the same meeting Cllr Andrew Jarvie said: “This proposal is the largest infrastructure project the Highlands has ever seen and proposed a 1300 per cent increase in traffic down 100-year-old single track roads.

“Despite this, the application detailed no road upgrades, no traffic management plan or no abnormal load analysis.

"It flies in the face of so many policies, yet planners were happy for it to go ahead.”

Council leader Margaret Davidson – who said it was among “the worst application” she had seen in two decades as a councillor – tabled the formal objection to the proposal, backed by the committee.

“In 20-odd years I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “Developers really have got to have a better quality of application and they must have some respect and due regard for where they are – this is above Loch Ness.”

The matter will be heard again on Wednesday at the south planning applications committee.

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