7 December 2011
Beauly-Denny line - Action to improve landscape around upgraded line in Stirling
Actions to improve the landscape around the Beauly-Denny upgrade in the Stirling area have been approved.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has approved ScottishPower Transmission's (SPT) plans to mitigate the visual impact of the line around Stirling, a condition of the Scottish Government's approval of the 400 kilovolt (kv), 137 mile electricity line upgrade.
The Minister has also set out additional compensatory mitigation measures to underground an extra seven kilometres of 132 kv line between Fallin and Glenbervie, and wider environmental and landscape improvements as part of a project to develop the Central Scotland Green Network to bring a long lasting benefit to communities in the Stirling area.
The Green Network - a network of woodland, walking and cycling routes, greenspace and waterways - is part of the National Planning Framework and SPT will work with public bodies to deliver widespread and long lasting improvements to the landscape and biodiversity.
Mr Ewing told Parliament:
"The Beauly-Denny upgrade remains the most significant grid infrastructure project in a generation. It is crucial to allow the vast onshore and offshore renewables potential in the north of Scotland to be harnessed, transmitted and exported. That is helping unlock our competitive advantage in renewable energy that is already delivering thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment to communities across Scotland.
"The original consent attached a number of conditions to protect communities, environment and our cultural heritage. Up and down the length of the line, those conditions are being met, existing pylons are being dismantled and work on the upgraded line is progressing.
"My predecessor Jim Mather required proposals for mitigating the visual and landscape impacts of the line near Stirling to be approved by Ministers before work proceeds.
"I have considered SPT's proposals and the views from Stirling Council representing the communities involved. I have considered the views of the Government's consultants Ironside Farrar, Scottish Natural Heritage and my officials, as well as the findings of the Reporter to the Public Inquiry in 2009. I have also travelled the length of the consented line around Stirling with consultants and officials.
"I have approved SPT's proposals, which I am content mitigate the impact of the line through planting, landscape reinforcement and the undergrounding of existing low voltage overhead lines in seven locations.
"However, I am also requesting additional, new compensatory and mitigation measures, to improve the area and bring long lasting benefit to the communities.
"Seven kilometres of the existing 132 kv overhead line, between Fallin to Glenbervie, will now be undergrounded.
"The Green Network will also be developed in partnership between SPT, the Scottish Government and other public bodies to provide wider community and landscape benefits the length of the line through Stirling. This is a real opportunity to realise wider environmental and societal benefits and put in place a permanent, positive legacy for Central Scotland.
"I have been acutely conscious of the feelings of the communities in the area and the views of many that the upgraded 400kv line should be undergrounded. This was comprehensively examined during the public inquiry and subsequently in reports produced for Stirling Council, SPT and by external consultants.
"Undergrounding on such a large scale would cost an estimated £263 million and require large sealing end compounds at the points where the line is undergrounded, which would have a significant landscape impact in their own right. According to the report of the public inquiry and external consultants, the impacts of the consented line at Stirling are moderate so I have concluded that due to the costs, technical problems and limited environmental benefits, the case for undergrounding has not been justified.
"My decision represents a way forward which maximises the potential benefits to the people of Stirling from the costs which are incurred by the public, and avoids delay to this crucial development."