opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development
REVOLT Newsletter 203
Revolt news 21/12/2005
*** SEASON'S GREETINGS *** *** TO ALL OUR READERS ***
1. From a parallel universe (Living Streets, Winter 2005, formerly the Pedestrians' Association): "... wouldn't it be great if local government, like a magic fairy, just knew intuitively what local people wanted, could foresee conflicts of interest and work out the perfect compromise in advance,, could see international developments and always be one step ahead ... yes, it's absurd. And even if government could do all this, we wouldn't be happy because we would be passive recipients of utopia ... As in life, as in government. We all have to join the struggle." Elsewhere that newsletter reports government's plans for Community Empowerment from the ODPM / Home Office vision in "Citizen Engagement and Public Services". Engagement and empowerment - key terms nowadays.
2. Press reports on Beauly - Denny suggest 12,000 objections have been received including one from George Reid, the presiding officer at the Scottish Parliament (APPENDIX A).
3. Another proposal before the Scottish Executive seems to have been sneaked in just before Christmas with a closing date of 23 December, although they may have to readvertise and give 28 days notice which would take the deadline to Jan 28th.. This is for a wind farm with implications for a power line from the west Highland coast to Beauly near Inverness (APPENDIX B).
4. Energy regulator Ofgem has approved the fast-tracking of £190m Scottish Power network upgrade (APPENDIX C). This upgrade of the interconnector is part of a £560m investment programme announced by Ofgem in December 2004 to bring energy from renewables projects spread across the north of Scotland.
5. Highland Council has responded to objectors to the Beauly - Denny line by offering a Hearing of its own. It is to be a very streamlined affair with a short deadline for reply, which I hope is not an attempt to avoid a proper public inquiry. My response is at APPENDIX D.
6. Friends of the Lake District newsletter no. 5 of December 05 (short extracts at APPENDIX E) reports on the programme agreed by Ofgem to underground 1.5% of distribution lines in National Parks and AONBs. That gives important recognition to the negative impact of powerlines on the landscape. Ofcom however is not so helpful in respect of telecoms equipment.
7. Moves are afoot to strengthen centralised power over planning in Scotland (APPENDIX F). The "green" fundamentalists seem uncomfortable, welcoming forced wind farms but nervous of blocking local objection on other projects.
APPENDIX A Two press articles on Beauly - Denny objections.
12,000 object to 200ft pylons in the Highlands By Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent (Telegraph; Filed: 13/12/2005)
Twelve thousand objections have been lodged against plans for a 137-mile electricity pylon line in the Highlands.
The figure was revealed yesterday as the deadline for public comment passed.
Protesters along the route have mounted campaigns against the 600 giant pylons - some up to 200ft high - needed to transport "green" power from new wind farms.
They are concerned about the potential cancer risk posed by upgrading the ageing 132,000-volt power line to 400,000 volts.
They also fear that it will have a damaging effect on property prices, threaten rare wildlife and harm tourism in an area famed for its mountains, moors and woodlands.
Campaigners opposed to the project, who want sections of the line to run underground, include Lord Lovat, the head of the Lovat Fraser clan, and his sister, Honor Fraser, the model.
Douglas Rae, of Ecosse Films, which made the television series Monarch of the Glen and the film Mrs Brown, starring Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly, has warned that the pylons could force filmmakers to look beyond Scotland for scenic locations.
The protesters want a public inquiry into the line, which is due to replace smaller pylons running between Beauly, near Inverness, and Denny, near Stirling.
Lord Lovat, 28, took part in a protest march in Beauly at the weekend. He said the campaigners were not against renewable energy but wanted the burial of sections of the line properly investigated by the power company Scottish and Southern Energy.
Bruce Crawford, the Scottish National Party MSP, said: "There are going to be more than 800 homes within 600 metres of the pylons."
Scottish and Southern Energy said there would be 200 fewer pylons than at present and insisted that all health guidelines were being observed.
A spokesman added that putting the line underground was technically difficult, created maintenance problems and was up to 12 times more expensive than using pylons.
Reid adds voice to the power struggle DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor December 13 2005 GEORGE Reid, the presiding officer at the Scottish Parliament, yesterday became one of 12,000 objectors to the building of a power line from the Highlands to Stirlingshire. As the deadline for objections closed, he made a rare intervention in a highly controversial issue, lodging a formal complaint about the proposed building of pylons between Beauly, west of Inverness, and Denny, near Stirling. He called for a public inquiry which would have to examine the options of burying the cable along the 137-mile route, or of laying it on the seabed between the Minch and Liverpool. As the MSP for Ochil, elected in 2003 under a Scottish National party banner, Mr Reid highlighted the eyesore that could be created near Stirling Castle, Bannockburn and Stirling Bridge battle sites, Yellowcraigs Wood, across Sheriffmuir and, in particular, the Wallace monument. "I cannot think of any other country which would permit such a blight so close to a landmark which symbolises the right of the people to be a nation," he said. The plan, proposed by subsidiaries of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and ScottishPower, is to upgrade the capacity of the power line, which would require fewer but taller pylons. This would allow developments in wind, wave, and tidal power to be transmitted from the Highlands to population centres. Opponents claim it carries an increased cancer risk, as well as blighting some of Scotland's most beautiful countryside, harming tourism and film-making. Pylon Pressure, representing communities throughout Inverness-shire, has collected 5000 objections. High-profile campaigners have included Kenny Logan, the former Scotland rugby international, and Lord Lovat, chief of the clan Fraser, who led a protest march in Beauly at the weekend. "We are not against renewable energy, but the question of safely burying this line needs to be properly examined," said Lord Lovat, 28. "These overhead lines threaten not only the landscape and tourist economy, but every facet of local life from children's health to property values. This is the next generation of pylons and, if we allow the first one through, then we open the f loodgates to even more." Bruce Crawford, an SNP MSP, is trying to get time at Holyrood for a debate on the issue, over which Mr Reid has said he would let his deputies preside. Campaigners are drawing evidence from an academic study that links high- voltage power lines to child leukemia, with 800 homes expected to be within 600 metres of the pylons. Mr Reid said he has been arguing his constituents' case with SSE for 18 months, but said the alternatives of burying cables or undersea routing have been rapidly dismissed on cost grounds. SSE argues there will be 200 fewer pylons than the present 800 along the route, though they will be up to 65m high. The present pylons range from 25-41m. The new pylons would be similar to a power line through East Lothian, and only half the height of Scotland's tallest pylons, close to the Forth. The company also claims the cost of going below ground would be up to 12 times the £320m overground price, and that underground cabling could do more environmental damage - by being buried, insulation fluid could leak - and it would be more difficult to repair faults. It is intended that 60% of the route should follow the power line through the central Highlands, with some diversion from the most scenic areas. The power companies claim that only 10 homes would be within 100m of the line.
APPENDIX B Wild Land not Waste Land
LZN Ltd Loch Glascarnoch to Loch Luichart Windfarm proposals
An application has been lodged with the Scottish Executive to build a windfarm between Loch Glascarnoch and Lochluichart. It will involve 43 windturbines each 120 metres high, between the A835 and the A832. They will be visible from Ben Wyvis, An Teallach, Beinn Dearg, the Fannichs and the Strathfarrar and Torridon Hills.
Transmission of the 129 MW of electricity may be via a converter station on the hill, a cable to Mossford and an upgraded transmission line from Luichart to Beauly.
The scheme will bring a profound change to the local environment of Wester Ross . The area has no special designations, but it is special to the people who live nearby, travel along the route and to the tourists who relish the wild aspect of Wester Ross before they come over the Dirrie Mhor.
The site for the proposed windfarm is described by the developers as DEGRADED HABITAT........WORKING LANDSCAPE........ between what they call THE SEMI-URBAN HINTERLAND OF INVERNESS and Wester Ross. This is not how the local inhabitants view their environment.
In Highland communities there is an historic concept linking communities to "The Hill". People have for generations lived, worked and enjoyed recreation alongside the wildlife and their habitat. These day to day or month to month movements of animals and birds were just part of the annual cycle, and at a local level were accepted as normal and rarely commented on. This fundamental distinction of Highland communities has either not been grasped or is being ignored by the Highland Council and SNH. Hitherto unknown sites of nests, sets, dens and holts have to be disclosed in an effort to save land largely ignored in detail. The developers have identified Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Golden Plover, and Red Throated diver amongst many others as being at risk if the development goes ahead
The help of those who visit the area for its cultural, scenic and recreational assets would be much appreciated. Members of the community and friends of the area can find out more about the plans LZN on 01202 856800) . Plans are also on view in the Highland Council Planning Office and the Garve and Lochluichart Post Offices. BUT TIME IS SHORT . Although the communities involved have been given verbal assurances that objections or calls for a public enquiry may be made into the new year, the official deadline stands at December 23rd 2005.
If you would like to send objections or representations on this major scheme in our area please write, identifying the proposals and specifying the grounds for objection, to
The Scottish Executive Energy Consents Unit 2nd Floor, Meridian Court, 5 Cadogan Street, Glasgow G2 6AT
(from John Urquhart, Highlands before Pylons)
APPENDIX C Energy watchdog gives go-ahead to £190m Scottish Power network upgrade
IAIN DEY CITY EDITOR
SCOTTISH POWER has been given clearance by the energy regulator to fast- track a £190m upgrade of Scotland's power network due to the flood of renewable energy projects emerging across the country.
Ofgem's head of energy transmission Robert Hull wrote to Scottish Power chief executive Ian Russell last week to reveal that he has waived previous conditions attached to the scheme, which could have left it bogged down in red tape for several years.
One of the conditions had been that the firm would have to wait for its Perth-based rival Scottish & Southern Energy to receive planning permission for its controversial upgrade of the Beauly to Denny power line - which has attracted 12,000 objections.
The Scottish Power project will bring extra capacity into the 'interconnector' that plugs Scotland's power network into the rest of the national grid. Construction work is now due to begin next summer.
A Scottish Power spokesman said: "The interconnector upgrade is fundamental to unlocking the potential of renewables in Scotland. We welcome recognition of this from Ofgem and the decision that the upgrade is justified in its own right. We also remain fully committed to the Beauly-Denny upgrade to facilitate the development of renewables in the north of Scotland."
The upgrade of the interconnector is part of a £560m investment programme announced by Ofgem in December 2004 to bring energy from renewables projects spread across the north of Scotland. It is the single biggest overhaul of the Scottish grid in more than 40 years.
Under the plans, the proposed £250m Beauly to Denny power line would act as the main thoroughfare to bring power from renewables projects in the north of Scotland to the central belt. The upgrade of the interconnector would then be required to export that additional power into the national grid.
But the number of wind farms and other renewables projects given the green light in Scotland means that additional capacity will be required in the interconnector sooner than expected, irrespective of progress on the Beauly to Denny line.
The interconnector upgrade will see its capacity soar and should be completed by 2011.
Ofgem said the decision to sanction the project separately to the Beauly to Denny line had been backed up by research from an independent consultancy into the number of renewables projects that had been sanctioned and their anticipated contribution to grid capacity.
This article: http://tinyurl.com/8vuqu Last updated: 18-Dec-05 00:28 GMT
APPENDIX D Response to Highland Council re. Beauly - Denny line.
Thank you for your email and letter of 16 December.
I do not expect to attend the Hearing. Given the format for the Hearing, and the limited time for presentations (and presumably questions), it would seem unsuitable for considering technical or scientific evidence, though I understand the practicalities.
Could you please assure me that the Hearing is not intended as a substitute for a public inquiry nor an attempt to prevent one being held?
My concern is that some matters need to be examined at a public inquiry. Perhaps a first step is to convince the Council of that. In that light my formal response to the Scottish Executive sets out briefly some considerations which warrant a public inquiry.
Specifically on the subject of underground cables, may I hereby formally invite the members of the Hearing, or if preferred its Chair and supporting officer, to inspect the 5.7 km underground 400 kV cable sites in and near North Yorkshire. This will demonstrate directly that the negative impressions of the impact of underground cable are not valid.
It will be a matter for public inquiry to determine what fraction and parts of the Beauly - Denny line might be rejected on the grounds that undergrounding would be a feasible and preferable option. Your Hearing could not do that, but in calling for an inquiry (or not) the Council should be properly aware of the general feasibility and impact of undergrounding some fraction of the line.
The North Yorkshire cables were installed only in 2001-2003, the installation period being severely prolonged by the incidence of foot- and-mouth disease. They are oil-filled cables, a technology now becoming obsolete in favour of XLPE cables, which are simpler and easier to maintain and have even less long-term impact.
I would be willing to show members the cable sites, and also to liaise with National Grid, who I am confident could show members the installation and discuss technicalities, and with local landowners who could discuss the impact, both short-term during construction and longer term which members can also see directly. It may be better for members to meet landowners I might nominate as well as any National Grid might nominate, to get a balanced picture.
BBC Scotland took video of the North Yorkshire cable sites in October this year. I would recommend that Hearing members see that video, which I could make available and no doubt BBC Scotland could too. Still photographs taken in August this year can be seen on www.revolt.co.uk .
I would also be willing to answer members' questions on precautionary policy for electric and magnetic fields. I am a member of the DH group SAGE, although I should point out that no member of SAGE can speak for it, as it has not yet pronounced. I can however speak about the process and the subject more generally.
APPENDIX E Short Extracts from Friends of the Lake District newsletter no. 5 Dec 05. http://www.fld.org.uk
Work is now being carried out around the country to take forward the proposals made by Ofgem, the government regulator of the electricity industry, to underground 1.5% of intrusive overhead wires that fall within National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. An allowance has been made in recognition of the high impact overhead wires can have on the landscape and the hope is that it will result in the removal of some of the most intrusive lines in the UK. The money can only be spent on lines that are part of the regional distribution networks across the country, and not the lines supported by metal pylons that form part of the National Grid.
Undergrounding around the country It is encouraging to hear that electricity companies around the country are taking forward the initiative to spend the voluntary allowance made by Ofgem to improve our landscape. Amongst others, we have had reports of meetings taking place with CE Electric UK that cover the North East of England and Scottish and Southern contacting the AONBs/NPs in the Southern Electric area.
Telecommunications Environmental Obligations Lord Currie, the Chair of Ofcom, stated in a letter to Friends of the Lake District that 'Ofcom has no specific duty to have regard to environmental matters'. Working together with the Council for National Parks, we have been pursuing this matter further with DEFRA and the DTI. We now await correspondence from the DTI and also from DEFRA who have written to Ofcom to ensure that they are fully aware of their duties to have regard to the purposes of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty when carrying out any work.
APPENDIX F Planning laws face major changes
The biggest changes to planning laws in Scotland in 50 years are set to be unveiled by the Scottish Executive.
Ministers said the aim of the planning bill was to streamline the current system and boost economic growth.
The Scottish Greens said the bill was a crucial test of executive priorities and the first minister's pledge to give rights to communities.
Calls by environmentalists for a third party right of appeal for local communities have already been rejected.
Under the proposed laws, the planning system will be speeded up by classing certain developments of national importance and limiting the time in which an appeal against a decision can be made.
This would allow the executive to approve controversial projects like motorways and wind farms without an inquiry establishing whether they should go ahead or not.
Environmentalists had called for a third party right of appeal for local communities to object to developments.
Instead, ministers said local people would be involved in the planning process at an earlier stage.
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said although there were some welcome measures in the bill, these were undermined by the centralisation of power which "closed off parts of the planning system to the public".
Friends of the Earth Scotland also welcomed the bill, but raised concerns about the new procedures which threatened to "constrain public involvement in the most controversial planning proposals".
-- Mike O'Carroll
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