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Proposed Red John hydro power scheme above Loch Ness rejected by Highland Council as "worst planning application" ever encountered; councillors slam lack of flood danger information in wake of Whaley Bridge dam damage in Derbyshire

By Scott Maclennan

Council leader Margaret Davidson was not impressed by the lack of information provided.
Council leader Margaret Davidson was not impressed by the lack of information provided.

A PROPOSAL for a new hydro scheme on the south bank of Loch Ness has been rejected by Highland Council as “the worst planning application” it has encountered.

The Red John scheme would have led to the creation of an underground waterway system above Dores carrying water between upper and lower reservoirs through an underground power station to the loch.

Meeting on Wednesday, the south planning committee members branded the application an “affront” after discovering various information had been withheld or not provided, including safety assessments and a traffic management plan.

Councillor Richard Laird, referring to Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, where damage to a dam led to a mass evacuation last week, wanted to know why a breach analysis assessment was not shared for the Loch Ness scheme.

“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?”

Planners were not shown the document either, with one advising it had been deemed a matter of “national security”.

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 objected to the proposal, backed by the committee, and a public local inquiry will now be held.

“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.”

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