By Victoria Weldon Reporter
It is the UK’s largest national park, attracting almost two million
visitors each year thanks to its breathtaking scenery and diverse wildlife.
Cairngorms National Park offers the best of the Scottish Highlands – but
its picturesque scenes are not uninterrupted, with structures from
Scotland’s energy network sometimes spoiling the view.
However, energy firms are taking steps to correct this and hundreds of
electricity pylons have already been removed from the park.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Network (SSEN) now plans to remove a
further 46 towers, as well as 12 km of overhead lines, in an area which
attracts the largest number of visitors to the park.
The firm has submitted a funding application to replace the pylons, near
the villages of Boat of Garten and Nethy Bridge, with underground cabling.
Grant Moir, CEO of Cairngorms National Park Authority, said the move will
make a big improvement to the park’s scenery.
“We have been working with SSE on these projects and are pleased to see
that these applications have now been submitted,” he said.
“They will build on the good work that has already taken place following
the construction of the Beauly to Denny line, where some 300 towers were
taken down within the Cairngorms National Park.
“The projects will result in nearly all the line in Strathspey being
removed and it will make a significant improvement to the visual impact of
the landscapes for the millions of visitors who come to the National Park
SSEN has applied for the funding from energy regulator Ofgem, who is
responsible for administering a £500m fund set up to mitigate the impact of
existing electricity infrastructure on National Parks and Scenic Areas.
If approved, it would see the removal of 15 steel lattice towers and 4km of
overhead line between Docharn and the Boat of Garten substation, as well as
31 towers and 8km of line between the substation and Craigmore Wood, to the
north of Nethy Bridge.
Euan Smith, of SSEN, said: “We are delighted to have submitted our
Cairngorms National Park proposals to Ofgem for consideration.
“If regulatory funding is approved for both schemes, this innovative
project will result in the removal of an additional 46 historic
transmission towers within the National Park’s boundary covering a combined
distance of 12km.
“We would like to thank all of those who have inputted into the development
process so far and look forward to continued engagement with Ofgem and
other interested stakeholders as we seek to further improve the visual
impact of our existing infrastructure in Scotland’s most valuable landscapes.”
The proposals came as concerns were raised over the impact of an SSE plan
elsewhere in the Highlands.
Locals are concerned that Corie Glas, a large pumped storage hydro scheme,
could cause significant problems for rural areas if it gets the go-ahead.
Campaigners fear the development, which will be bigger than Ben Cruachan,
could cause major damage to the “crumbling” A82 as at least 3.9 million
tonnes of rock needs to be removed from the hillside to allow the scheme to
John Fortheringham, of Spean Bridge Community Council, claims no one has
addressed the potential damage to the road, or the effects on tourism or
the number of lorry movements required to create space inside the mountain.
He said: “Not only do we have narrow roads that do not allow two HGVs to
pass each other on the roadside, the roads are crumbling.
“Is someone thinking about the road? Is anyone thinking it might need (to
be) upgraded before any planning permission is granted? “What we are
worried about is the number of HGV movements. The developers will have
three choices – take it through Inverness, up to Kyle or down to Corpach.
“Well there is no way the councillors in Inverness will want an extra
thousand lorry loads through the city.
“I understand SSE are planning to take the rocks out by canal. But the
canal option will still mean all those lorries coming through the village
on the A82 and causing more damage, and frustration to residents.”
Highland Council has already approved the development, but because of the
size and scale of the project, the final decision rests with the Scottish
SSE said it has signed a memorandum with Scottish Canal to use the
Caledonian Canal to remove the rock during constructions, reducing the
volume being removed by road.
A spokeswoman added that it is important to the firm to “mitigate the
impact on the communities”.
A spokeswoman for Bear Scotland said: “As with all major projects, we work
closely with the developers to minimise damage and disruption to the road
network throughout the construction period.”
A final decision on the plan is expected within the next six months.