Aug 31 2011 by Gregor White, Stirling Observer Wednesday
POWER bosses have been accused of “putting two fingers up to the Scottish Government” after again ruling out undergrounding of the hugely-contentious Beauly to Denny powerline as it passes through Stirling.
Those were the words of Stirling Before Pylons secretary Peter Pearson after Scottish Power submitted a revised visual mitigation scheme for the Stirling area which remains virtually unchanged from their original proposals of almost 18 months ago - and six months on from being instructed to look at the whole issue again.
The firm continues to rule out undergrounding any part of the line on the basis of cost, technical difficulty and what they say would be “very limited environmental benefits”.
Instead they are proposing “extensive screen planting and hard and soft landscaping works” along with some painting of towers.
Although undergrounding is mentioned for a limited stretch this applies only to lines currently being carried on wooden poles, which would probably have to be undergrounded anyway, to avoid interfering with the new high voltage line.
Mr Pearson said: “Frankly we’re not surprised.
“Scottish Power, although they have gone through the process of what they would call consultation with both local communities and the council, really haven’t had their heart in it.
“Eighteen months after they were first asked to produce mitigation proposals for the line passing through the Stirling area and we end up with a few trees planted and a couple of pylons being painted.
“Frankly that’s just putting two fingers up to the Scottish Government and begs the question of who actually runs Scotland.
“The company was quite clearly asked to look at this issue again because the government wanted mitigation proposals in Stirling that would take account of the special circumstances regarding landscape, heritage and so on - and they have come up with this.
“The Energy Minister can - and my suggestion is that he should - just simply send these proposals straight back to Scottish Power.”
In a joint statement SNP MSPs for Stirling and Ochil, Bruce Crawford and Keith Brown, said: “Many of our constituents will be disappointed that Scottish Power Transmission Ltd’s latest proposals have not delivered in respect of undergrounding, re-sizing or re-routing the line in the Stirling area.
“The next stage will be for the proposals to be the subject of an extended period of consultation with Stirling Council.
“During this time we intend to seek a meeting with the responsible minister to ensure that these proposals are examined robustly and rigorously.”
Labour MP Anne McGuire said she was “deeply disappointed but quite frankly not surprised” at the latest developments, as she also accused the Holyrood administration of playing political games with the issue.
“The SNP Government's direction on mitigation cynically misled campaigners into thinking that the power companies were willing to make radical changes to the proposals,” she said.
And she added: “Whilst a supporter of renewable energy I continue to have concerns that the mitigation measures appear not to have taken into account any unresolved health issues for people living near to the powerline upgrade.”
Meanwhile Frank Mitchell, Scottish Power chief executive insisted that “the overwhelming environmental, technical and financial case still supports the overhead line solution as approved”.
He said: “We have considered, in depth, every option available for the construction and mitigation of this strategically important power line and have consulted with all interested groups, from members of the public and community groups, to planning authorities, elected representatives and technical experts.
“We believe that the revised Stirling Visual Impact Mitigation Scheme meets the terms of the condition placed on this project by the Scottish Government last year, and also fully reflects the outcome of the further process of engagement with Stirling Council.
“The period of further engagement with Stirling Council has identified the mitigation measures that Scottish Power believe will help minimise the landscape and visual impact of the overhead line on local communities and residents.
“On this basis, Scottish Power looks forward to a positive early response to the scheme in order that further delays in delivering this project of national importance can be avoided.”
Yesterday (Tuesday) morning Stirling Council said it was yet to receive a copy of Scottish Power’s report from the government, but that a meeting of their powerline steering group was scheduled to take place on Friday.
Mr Pearson, who sits on the steering group, said a request had already been made to extend the formal 30 day period of consultation between the government and council to three months.
“This doesn’t seem unreasonable given the time the applicant has had to come up with these proposals,” he said.