Highland councillors yesterday approved a major expansion to the electricity substation at Auchteraw, Fort Augustus, yesterday – but said local councillors have the opportunity to consult with their communities over traffic, noise and landscape impacts.
The expanded substation will vastly increase the capacity of Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd (SHETL) to supply growing amounts of renewable energy to the grid.
With the budget described as ‘in the region of nine figures’ by SHETL officials at the meeting, the work will take place in two phases over seven years.
Councillors heard of the serious impact on residents of work carried out so far at the substation as it tripled in size over the past four years to accommodate the Beauly to Denny power line upgrades.
Lorraine Doolan of Auchteraw Liaison Group said in a letter read out at the meeting that the impact of the substation had had a devastating effect on her community and the expansion would make it worse.
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“Auchteraw feels it has been thrown to the wolves by SHETL, and the community council and the council planning department as none of the issues we raised have been considered,” the meeting heard.
Fort Augustus Glenmoriston community council chairman Stuart Findlay said: “We don’t consider the proposed traffic policy sufficient to protect school children.”
Councillors approved the substation, on the extra condition that a finalised construction traffic management and landscape impact plans should be developed in consultation with local councillors who would undertake consultations with the communities affected.
Meanwhile, South Planning Application Committee councillors went on to note SSE’s application for a 1500MW hydro-scheme involving damming Coire Glas and hollowing out the mountain to build the biggest hydro-scheme in Scotland, linking to the substation at Auchteraw.
They identified “spoil management”, the disposal of potentially 3.9 million tonnes of rock from the mountain as the biggest problem of the project, with neither road nor canal barges adequate to dispose of that amount without leaving any spoil building up on the ground.
Local councillor Dennis Rixson said: “The effect on tourist-related businesses at the top of Loch Lochy will be at best severe, at worst catastrophic, for the best part of seven years.”
Councillor Bill Lobban said: “You’re talking about a vehicle movement every three and a half minutes during a seven hour day, not to mention the amount of materials that have to be brought in by HGV.
“It’s a fabulous project but this could be the nail in the coffin of some local communities.”
The councillors agreed to impose a condition on planning that SSE’s spoil management plan should be approved by the South Planning Committee.