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Power lines plan will ‘ruin people’s lives’ say furious campaigners

Hard-hitting billboard image unveiled at public meeting called to fight proposals

Campaigners issued hard-hitting billboards against the power line plans
Campaigners issued hard-hitting billboards against the power line plans

A planned new power line through the Highlands threatens to ruin people’s lives and spoil a beautiful part of the world, campaigners say.

More than 150 residents attended a public meeting in Kiltarlity and joined online to voice opposition to the SSEN proposals.

A hard-hitting billboard depicting pylons scarring a woman’s face was unveiled at the meeting.

It carries the words “What kind of thug scars Highland beauty? Just say No to SSEN and Scottish Government plans”.

It is planned to post the 3m x 1m images on billboards across the Highlands as objectors pledged a campaign on an unprecedented scale.

People can also download the posters from a website set up by Communities B4 Power Companies, a group established to fight the pylon plans.

Posters will ‘stop people in their tracks’

Lyndsey Ward, one of the founders of Communities B4 Power Companies, said: “The posters will be rolled out across the Highlands. They are going to make people stop in their tracks.

“They are hard-hitting because that is needed to get the message across and make people sit up and think’ what are we doing?’

“The area is so precious to people who live here and to visitors. We can’t keep throwing industrial hardware at it.

“It’s part of a full-on campaign, probably something Scotland has not seen before.”

Campaigners around Beauly are trying to stop the pylon plans. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

SSEN plans to route a new 400KV overhead line between Spittal in Caithness and Beauly.

It is part of a proposed £7 billion network upgrade to connect renewables projects and support the drive towards net zero.

It also includes a new transmission line from Beauly to Peterhead and three new substations for Beauly, Spittal and Loch Buidhe, in Sutherland.

Campaigners say the planned line threatens historical, environmental and cultural sites and could turn quiet villages where lines converge into a ‘Spaghetti Junction’.

They want the Scottish Government to intervene and halt the proposals.

Legal action being considered

Another group, Strathpeffer and Contin Better Cable Group, is campaigning against the plans.

And the owner of Carbisdale Castle in Sutherland is considering legal action to stop the plan she says threaten her £10 million renovation of the landmark.

The meeting criticised SSEN for what objectors said was an inadequate consultation.

Ms Ward referred to the controversial Beauly-Denny power line which became fully operational in 2015 despite an opposition campaign.

“We learnt from the Beauly-Denny line objections that SSEN’s ‘listening to stakeholders’ is a cynical box-ticking exercise – a tiny fig leaf of consultation on a very big pylon.”

She is demanding information from SSEN and the Scottish Government on why the new line is needed, claiming the infrastructure is already there to meet net zero targets.

“Wind farms are being consented willy-nilly with no idea where their power is needed or how it will get there.

“This whole rush for power is driven by an unholy alliance between greedy wind farm developers, fat cat power companies…and Scottish Ministers with their mad drive to green wash Scotland.

SSEN is consulting on the planned power line

“Like similar campaigns in Argyll and Dumfries, we will demand that OFGEM and SSEN show us the need for this power which threatens to ruin people’s lives and despoil one of the most beautiful places on earth in order to send electricity south to England.”

SSEN has extended the consultation period until April 14 in response to local feedback.

It says the project is in the early stages of development and no specific overhead line routes have been identified.

The company says it is using sophisticated software to help narrow down potential viable routes.

This allows factors, including the proximity to homes, villages, and towns, as well as historical landmarks and environmental designations, to be considered.

This is supported by desk and field-based studies, which established a shortlist of the most viable options.

Sensitive sections of route will need consideration

SSEN said: “The development of a preferred route for the new overhead line is extremely challenging, given the volume of constraints between Spittal and Beauly and this will be done iteratively.

“Some sections which are less constrained will be quicker to confirm, but we recognise that there are sections of the route which are more sensitive, for many reasons, and will require further significant consideration.”

The company says the process for designing the overhead line route will take place over the next eight-10 months.

This will reflect a range of factors, including feedback to the consultation.

SSEN denies suggestions overhead lines are being progressed solely on financial grounds, or that they are more profitable.

It also says underground cables are more expensive to install and maintain.

The existing substation at West Balblair near Beauly. Image Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

The Scottish Government said it has not set a deadline in relation to the Spittal-Beauly  upgrade.

But it supports the Pathway to 2030 programme for the net zero transition. The planned infrastructure investment will bring jobs, supply chain and economic benefits.

A spokesman said: “Clear guidance is in place to ensure public consultation and engagement is carried out for all large-scale infrastructure proposals such as this, and that Environmental Impact Assessments are submitted.”

He said any application would be subject to further consultation, including with the community.

“Potential impacts on communities, nature and other valued natural assets or cultural heritage are important considerations in the decision-making process.”

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