Fury as energy giant rules out burying massive power lines

Share this article

SCOTTISHPower has decided not to bury part of the controversial Beauly-Denny powerline in a move campaigners have described as "farcical".

Putting sections of the 137-mile high-voltage line underground was one of the ideas suggested to lessen the impact of the project, amid concerns that the 600 pylons would damage some of Scotland's most scenic countryside. But the firm has ruled out the move due to "environmental, technical and cost considerations".

Instead it plans to use screen planting, landscaping and painting of pylons to minimise the impact, as well as the undergrounding of lower voltage lines in the area.

In January the energy minister Jim Mather approved the 350 million proposal for the 400kV overhead line to replace an existing 132kV line, despite widespread opposition.

At the time, Mr Mather imposed conditions aimed at protecting the landscape in a number of areas including those around Stirling.

ScottishPower is building a 12-mile stretch of the line from Denny northwards, taking in most of Stirlingshire. The remainder is being built by Scottish and Southern Energy.

In a consultation report published yesterday, ScottishPower said: "Given the very significant costs involved, undergrounding is not considered to represent an efficient and economic development of the transmission system and cannot be justified from a regulatory perspective."

It said overhead line costs vary between 1.5 million and 27.5m, whereas the cost of undergrounding would be 60.3m to 480.2m.

Frank Mitchell, ScottishPower's energy networks director, said: "In approving the upgraded power line in January, Scottish ministers accepted that the proposed route was both logical and justified.

"This approved route was established through extensive planning and in-depth studies in order to find the most suitable location for the transmission line from a technical and environmental perspective.

"The measures in the report have been identified following a balancing of environmental, technical and cost considerations."

But the Stirling Before Pylons campaign group dismissed the report. It plans a march through the city led by Stirling's former rugby international Kenny Logan.

Mr Logan said: "ScottishPower's failure to recommend undergrounding the Stirling section needs rebuffed by the minister, since any other mitigation is meaningless in terms of protecting this stunning landscape and the health of local residents."

The group said: "ScottishPower's failure to recommend any undergrounding is farcical. No amount of tree and hedge-planting can hide a line of 50-metre high pylons, or protect against the very real dangers posed by electric and magnetic fields radiating off the line."