National Trust joins protest over new giant pylons

The 50m pylons replace a network that is 80 years old and they would stretch from South Ayrshire to Cumbria. Picture: Getty
The 50m pylons replace a network that is 80 years old and they would stretch from South Ayrshire to Cumbria. Picture: Getty
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Scotland’s largest conservation charity has joined protesters across Dumfries and Galloway in objecting to plans for a new overhead electricity transmission line that will see more than 100 miles of 50m-tall pylons stretching across southern Scotland and over the border into England.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has become the latest organisation to lodge an objection to proposals for the line, which will replace an 80-year-old network that is approaching the end of its “operational life”.

In a letter to electricity distributor Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN), NTS chief executive Simon Skinner raised concerns that the scheme could harm the local environment as well as key historical landmarks in the area – particularly the birthplace of the renowned writer and social historian Thomas Carlyle.

He wrote: “Your proposed new route for pylons will take in countryside to the immediate north of Ecclefechan and Thomas Carlyle’s birthplace and therefore will be directly visible from the property.”

He also points out the possible impact of the line on Craigenputtock House, where Carlyle wrote his classic Sartor Resartus and coined the term “environment” as it is used today.

“It would be ironic if Scottish Power Energy Networks were to fatally damage the very environment that inspired him to do this,” the letter states.

The trust is calling for SPEN to consider alternatives to the overhead line such as underground or subsea cabling, insisting that it would be worth the extra cost.

The existing 132,000-volt system has not changed since it was built in the 1930s. Now SPEN plans to replace it with a new high-voltage overhead line running from Auchencosh in South Ayrshire to Harker in Cumbria.

Four new substations would be also created – at Auchencrosh, Newton Stewart, Glenlee and Dumfries. Work is expected to be completed by 2023.

The NTS objection comes in the wake of a similar submission from 38 community councils across Dumfries and Galloway.

Locals fear the new power line will destroy the area’s natural beauty, harm important wildlife such as the rare red squirrel and threaten the £300 million local tourism industry.

They say the giant pylons will span previously unspoiled landscapes, running through the Galloway Forest Park and close to the UK’s first Dark Sky Park. The new line will also pass over the former home of national bard Robert Burns at Ellisland Farm.

Dunscore resident Alan Jones, of the campaign group Dungal Against Pylons, said local people recognised the need for the upgrade but said it was crucial it should be carried out in a way that was sympathetic to the unspoilt beauty of the landscape.

He said the Scottish landscape should be given the same protection as in England and Wales, where the National Grid has set aside £500m to tear down the “biggest and ugliest” electricity pylons blighting some of the most treasured beauty spots and hide them underground.

Areas of outstanding natural beauty have been earmarked in the Snowdonia, the Peak District, New Forest and Brecon Beacons national parks.

Colin Brown, project manager for the SPEN scheme, said the work was essential to modernise and upgrade the ageing and under-sized transmission network but insisted the views of local people were critical.

“To make sure we develop the scheme with local concerns and ideas firmly in mind, every word of the feedback we have received now needs to be scrutinised and we will respond as part of the consultation feedback report later this year,” he said.

An extended consultation into the proposal ended on 
31 August.