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Strathpeffer and Contin Better Cable Route group voiced concern over SSEN 400Kv power line proposals – and welcomes 'chink of light'


By Hector MacKenzie

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A group of locals in front of Loch Kinellan earlier in the year flagging concerns over SSEN power line proposals. Picture: James Mackenzie.
A group of locals in front of Loch Kinellan earlier in the year flagging concerns over SSEN power line proposals. Picture: James Mackenzie.

The Better Cable Route (Strathpeffer and Contin) group has reacted with concern to SSEN’s Report on Consultation which identifies its preferred route for the new Spittal-Beauly 400Kv power line.

The campaign group is highlighting the detrimental effects that will have on the area’s wildlife, heritage and landscape.

However, the group has also welcomed SSEN’s willingness to explore an alternative to the routes it originally proposed, and hopes that this has established the principle for local communities to be involved in co-designing the final route with SSEN and other stakeholders.

SSEN says the improved infrastructure is essential to meet our future energy needs and to bolster energy security.
SSEN says the improved infrastructure is essential to meet our future energy needs and to bolster energy security.

SSEN’s report has recognised some of the community concerns about the local impact of the proposed D1 route in the Strathpeffer and Contin area with SSEN having now included an alternative option for part of D1 (D1.3) which would move the pylon route away from Strathpeffer, Jamestown and Contin, villages which will otherwise be badly affected by D1.

Helen Smith of the group said: “SSEN’s preferred route (D.1) through the Strathpeffer and Contin area passes close to the settlements of Strathpeffer, Jamestown and Contin and the people who live on the Heights. It will also cause major problems in the woodlands around Strathpeffer, Kinellan and Contin which are such an important recreational resource for local people and visitors; will have negative impacts on important cultural heritage sites in Strath Sgitheach, along the Heights, around Loch Kinellan and in Strathconon; and will blight the iconic A835 gateway to the West Highlands in the Contin area. No mitigation can adequately address its impacts.

"However, the possibility of routing some of D1 away from Strathpeffer, Jamestown and Contin is a small chink of light, and we are going to be pressing SSEN to work more collaboratively with local people to find a final route which will minimise the damage the pylons cause.”

She said: “We suggested an alternative route as just an example of one possible option for part of D.1 that would bypass our main centres of population. The fact that SSEN is now presenting this as an alternative when it did not appear amongst their original options shows the poor quality of their original route identification process. It also clearly demonstrates that other less damaging routes are possible and should be considered further in partnership with local communities.”

“We are pleased to see SSEN accept the principle of community co-design by including D1.3 in the Report, and we welcome the support from the Highland Council, as our Local Planning Authority, for considering it as part of further routing options.

“It is important to be clear that D1.3 is not the settled will of the community. But it does demonstrate that less-damaging options are possible, and this is a good starting point for discussion.”

Better Cable Route will continue to campaign hard against route D.1, and are urging SSEN to work with the local community, and, indeed with communities along the whole route, in a genuine co- design process to find the least-bad alternative solution in every area.

More can be found at www.bettercableroute.com


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