Campaigners have condemned the incentive of a £1,000 reduction in annual electricity bills for homes near powerlines as “an attempt to buy people off”.
The offer was confirmed in the chancellor’s autumn statement.
Residents objecting to proposed transmission line upgrades in the Highlands say it will not mitigate the impact that new lines will have on rural areas.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has sensed an opportunity, offering the cut – each year for a decade – hoping it will help speed up powerline connections to the national grid.
Dan Bailey of the campaign group Better Cable Route (Strathpeffer and Contin) said: “We’re not concerned that the offer of modest pay-outs for some selected households in our area is going to change people’s minds.
“We’re much more concerned with the effects on our quality of life, our environment and the tourism economy in our area and the hit to property values and tourism businesses is going to be far exceeding any small payment to a few households in the area, who happen to be unfortunate enough to be directly next to the powerlines.”
In the past few years, a tide of opposition to planned powerline upgrades across the north has spawned protest groups from Caithness to Aberdeenshire and Skye to Easter Ross. They fear the impact on fragile rural areas and nature.
Tourism and heritage consultant Helen Smith said: “People realise that the value of what’s under threat is a lot greater than a small amount per year for ten years in supposed compensation.
“How can you compensate for a huge swathe of the Highlands being industrialised with huge amounts of concrete and huge numbers of trees being felled, wildlife being disturbed and the whole adverse impact on people’s quality of life?”
The power company overseeing transmission line upgrades has raised a glass to the Chancellor.
Greg Clarke of SSEN said: “We very much welcome the UK Government’s commitment to provide funding for communities hosting this critical national infrastructure.
“We very much believe it needs to be tailored based on communities’ individual needs and we’ll be working with government and communities to ensure that this funding secures transformational benefits and leaves a lasting legacy.”
Miles of new access roads will be required and woodland felled to accommodate SSEN’s Pathway to 2030 project to upgrade transmission lines.
The UK Government has been contacted for comment.
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