An energy giant’s controversial plans to build a line of “super pylons” beside some of the north-east’s most treasured landmarks have been halted.
The Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (Shet) proposals were for a “corridor” of 165ft structures, which would have passed close to Bennachie, Castle Fraser and other beloved spots.
Shet – part of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) – wanted to erect the pylons as part of a back-up power line between Beauly, Blackhillock and Kintore. The 100-mile line was aimed at reinforcing the connection between the Highlands and the north-east.
But a National Grid network options assessment report issued yesterday changed the project recommendation for the power line from “delay” to “do not proceed”.
The proposed route for the string of pylons between Beauly and Blackhillock would have passed within a mile of Culloden battlefield.
The West Aberdeenshire Pylon Action (Wapa) and Craigearn, Leschangie and Monymusk Pylon Action (Clampa) groups have been spearheading the fight against the project in the north-east.
Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said: “SSE have said that it is important to note that this does not necessarily signal the end of the need for the transmission line at some point in the future.
“However, I am delighted that the campaign has been successful in highlighting the environmental damage this could do to Aberdeenshire.
“This could not be better news,” added the MSP for the north-east.
A Holyrood debate on the pylons project will still go ahead on February 7.
Wapa spokeswoman Lynne Scott said: “While we welcome this development, it is important to recognise that SSE themselves have indicated that this is a pause rather than a cancellation of the project.” Wapa chairman Fergus McGhie last night vowed the group would not stop campaigning following the news. He said: “I think our view is quite straightforward: at best it has gone away, at worst we have got a year’s delay and breathing space to continue to weigh our options.”
He added SSEN had indicated it still has a long-term goal to progress with the scheme.
Mr McGhie said the proposed corridor for the pylons would have “ignored the A96 corridor” and instead gone through “untouched countryside” neighbouring Bennachie.
He added: “Our main issue was, why do it over ground when it can be done underground? That will continue to be our position.”
SSEN said: “We note the publication of National Grid’s network options assessment report and will now begin discussions with affected parties, including generation developers and local communities, about how to take forward the recommendations relating to the Beauly-Blackhillock-Kintore project.
“As the network options assessment (NOA) is an annual process, a recommendation to stop or delay in one year might become a recommendation to proceed in later years.
“As part of our planned discussions, we will carefully consider how to ensure we capture the significant development work that has been done and the valuable stakeholder feedback received so far on this project,” added the spokeswoman. The scheme would have needed Scottish Government approval, and SSEN had planned to submit a planning application after 2019.