Scottish Power says it will use trees and shrubbery to mitigate the effect of the controversial pylons on a section of the new Beauly to Denny power line. The Company has rejected the option of putting cables underground for a 20km stretch of the high-voltage line around Stirling. The pylons will be up to 60 metres high (200ft) and will pass the edge of the Ochils near Stirling.
The Scottish Government had asked Scottish Power to come up with ideas to limit the visual impact of the power line in the Stirling and Falkirk area and the announcement of the rejection of burying the cables comes at the the start of a 30-day public consultation. When the Scottish Government gave permission for the project in January 2010 it did not specify how the power companies involved should protect the visual environment but left it up to those companies to come up with proposals.
Scottish Power said it will use landscaping to screen parts of the route and that pylons will also be painted in darker shades of grey to help them blend into the countryside.
When complete, the Beauly to Denny line will run for 220km (137 miles), taking renewable energy from the north of the country to consumers in the south. It will be made up of a network of 600 large pylons to provide the connection to the national grid. The scheme was granted permission earlier this year after a lengthy public enquiry during which opponents, including the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the John Muir Trust (JMT)argued for the protection of the visual environment and supported the proposal of putting the cables underground for sensitive sections of the route.
Responding to the Scottish Power announcement, the JMT said it highlighted the failure of the regulator, Ofgem, to safeguard Scotland’s landscapes.
The JMT believes that Ofgem made a serious mistake in agreeing to the Beauly Denny proposal in 2005 and that the power companies cannot risk going back to Ofgem with even marginal, increased costs as the economic case cannot be made in 2010.
Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, said: “The Trust is not surprised by this latest development. We believe that the power companies cannot risk re-opening the cost benefit discussion. Evidence, which was not taken account of properly by the Public Local Inquiry Reporters or by Scottish Ministers, shows that alternative routes for transmission – both subsea and the East Coast route – could take this electricity without the major environmental and social impacts of Beauly Denny.
“These were dismissed as too expensive. However, it is becoming clear that subsea cables are the preferred option for taking electricity from Scotland to England and that undergrounding is being considered, by Ofgem, as justified in National Parks in England and for London, for the Olympics. What is it that makes Scotland’s landscapes less worthy of protection?
“It is likely that Scottish Power cannot concede some undergrounding as this would require going back to Ofgem and, now more than ever, the economic case for an overhead line cannot be made. We believe a re-assessment in the light of current costs and technological advances would show that Scotland’s transmission needs can be met without the Beauly Denny line.”