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Highland pressure group rejects SSEN claim to be engaging in a ‘constructive manner’ over power line plans

By Gregor White

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SSEN’s 3D mock-up of the giant substation (grey-building) planned for Fanellan, near Beauly, set against the picturesque landscape.
SSEN’s 3D mock-up of the giant substation (grey-building) planned for Fanellan, near Beauly, set against the picturesque landscape.

Communities B4 Power Companies says power giant SSEN is determined to push through new power line plans.

The firm is currently consulting over plans for a new 400kV power line between Caithness and Beauly, including new High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Converter Stations at both Spittal in Caithness and Beauly which it says it wants to co-locate with new substations.

The company also said this week that there were instances of its staff being subjected to threats over the plans.

But Lyndsey Ward, spokeswoman for the Beauly-based Communities B4 Power Companies campaign group, believes the current consultation process is a sham.

“SSEN has shown anything but the openness and inclusivity they claim,” she said.

“It’s been quite clear to those of us dealing with them that they are going through the motions in conducting token consultations and have made up their minds already where they intend to put the lines. How respectful is that?”

She said her claims are backed by those reporting back from an archaeology and heritage group meeting in Dingwall on March 21 with SSEN.

It was clear from that, she claimed, that SSEN staff had little idea of the many historic sites along their corridor options.

Delegates, she said, were told that SSEN plans to have decided on the main routes by mid-April and the exact placing of the towers within six to eight months, but only expect to walk the route in person in the summer.

Ms Ward said she has also been contacted by someone heavily impacted by SSEN's plans who told her: "I had a call last week (week beginning March 20) from an SSEN land manager, who despite having 'every sympathy with us', eventually admitted to me that the line will definitely go ahead, the route has been decided, and they were just 'tweaking' the final sites for the pylons.

"He had no answer to 'what's the point of a 'consultation?’'"

The first residents in the Beauly area heard of the extent of SSEN's plans was on March 2 at a statutory public meeting where they were told they would have until March 31 to respond.

Ms Ward said: “Thanks to an open letter from a cross-party group of our local councillors, this was extended a derisory two weeks. We had asked for a minimum of three months.

"We are asking our MSPs to join our calls for a longer period for those affected to examine the highly technical and potentially life changing information needed to make an informed response to SSEN. Perhaps SSEN would rather we didn’t do that."

She added: “Let’s not forget we are talking three lines of mega-pylons descending on a new substation at Beauly the size of 35 football pitches at its smallest.

"In an unguarded moment, one SSEN spokesman told a shocked resident that Beauly would be like ‘Spaghetti Junction’.

“During this absurdly short ‘consultation period’ we have been faced with inaccurate maps on their web site and ‘out-of-office’ and ‘away on annual leave’ replies to emails from community liaison staff. We find this air of wounded virtue exhibited by SSEN hard to swallow.”

Communities B4 Power Companies has called a public meeting in Kiltarlity Village Hall on Friday, April 7.

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