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Proposed Loch Ness hydro scheme to be decided at a public local inquiry

By Scott Maclennan

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ILI Hydro Storage exhibition at Dores Village Hall...Picture: Gary Anthony. Image No..
ILI Hydro Storage exhibition at Dores Village Hall...Picture: Gary Anthony. Image No..

The developer behind a massive pumped storage hydro scheme on the banks of Loch Ness that was twice rejected by Highland Council has vowed to pursue the project at a public local inquiry.

The controversial Red John project, considered one of the region’s largest ever developments, was slammed by council leader Margaret Davidson as one of the “worst” applications she had ever seen.

The proposals called for the development of an upper reservoir with embankment 39m high, 600m wide and almost 2km long.

Water would travel between the reservoir and Loch Ness through massive tunnels with an underground turbine room but an above ground substation and there would be a significant alteration of the loch-side area.

The south planning committee twice voted to object to the proposals, the first time in August of last year then again in December after more information was added to the application.

It was knocked back again over what was seen as a lack detail, a poor traffic management plan, and the appropriateness of such a development on the banks of the world famous Loch Ness.

The size of the project means it falls under the remit of the Energy Consents Unit at the Scottish Government to make a final decision – the council’s second objection made the move to a public local inquiry almost inevitable.

Now the CEO of ILI Group, Mark Wilson, has confirmed that the company will indeed pursue the project through a public local inquiry, he said: “Unfortunately the planning committee have raised an objection for the second time.

“This was against the advice not only of the council planning department, but also the roads department, Scottish Natural Heritage, SEPA and Historic and Environmental Scotland who all raised no objection to our proposal.

“This now means we will take the proposal to a public local inquiry and we have informed the Energy Consents Unit accordingly.

"Storage is critical to the further development of renewable energy in Scotland. Wind and solar are intermittent but can provide constant power when backed up by storage.

"Pumped storage hydro will play a critical role in this, as it does elsewhere in the world, and given the history of hydro power in the Highlands, we are obviously disappointed by the response from some Highland councillors.

“Locally this project will create nearly 400 construction jobs over the five year construction period.

“We are confident the PLI will see the local and national benefits of the project and look forward to presenting these”

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