Campaigners vow to keep up fight against controversial pylon plans

Thousands respond to proposals for multi-million pound upgrades to the electricity network between Kintore and Tealing.

Campaigners have vowed to continue their fight against controversial plans to build giant pylons across the north of Scotland.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has released the findings from its consultation to upgrade the electrical infrastructure across the area, which show some changes to the initial proposals.

More than 6,000 people have responded to plans which are a part of a multi-billion-pound upgrade over the next decade.

A third of Shona Alexander’s family farm in Aberdeenshire would’ve been taken over by an electrical substation at Fiddes of Mearns, which would have also seen pylons go over the top of the birthplace of Scottish author Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

But under new proposals the site has now been moved further north, closer to an existing station at Fetteresso Woods near Stonehaven.

She said: I’m so delighted that the proposals have changed, when I first found out I didn’t really believe it, because we’ve been living with the thought of these plans for six months.”

However, the proposals now show that part of the Tealing to Kintore line move further west towards Auchenblae, where residents there are now facing the reality of what the changes may mean for them.

Homeowners Susanne and Matthew Machin-Autenriech said they learned of the new proposed routes through Facebook.

Matthew said: “Part of the issue with these plans it that is just moves the problem.”

His wife Susanne added: “We started to look more closely at the plans and then really quickly we realised the lines could go over our homes.”

SSEN says the £20bn upgrades are necessary to reach the country’s renewable energy targets.

The company also said plans to build new infrastructure will generate around 400 new jobs in the north of Scotland and put millions of pounds back into the area through the UK Government’s Community Benefit fund.

Rob Macdonald, SSEN transmission’s managing director, said: “I think this is the biggest investment the transmission network has seen since the Second World War.

“This is substantial infrastructure, so we have to work carefully with communities to make sure things are sensitively located, that’s why we’ve consulted extensively and have made the changes.”

Meanwhile, at Blackhillock in Moray, the proposed new substation will move to the east of Keith, which has been welcomed by the area’s MP Douglas Ross.

He said: “This change from SSEN Transmission is a terrific victory for local campaigners who made their significant concerns known to them as soon as this planned substation was announced.”

But despite the changes to some of the routes, campaigners have vowed to continue their fight.

Tracey Smith from the Save our Mearns group in Southern Aberdeenshire said: “We will continue to oppose these plans by SSEN and we will continue to support the people affected by this.

“There are other ways the system could be upgraded, and we want those looked at.”

Proposals also show some changes to the routes proposed for the Highlands.

An option for a more inland route will be looked at for the line between Spittal and Brora, to minimise the impact to the coastal village of Dunbeath.

SSEN also said it would continue to assess an “alternative route” developed through the consultation due to pass through Contin and Strathpeffer.

Dan Bailey, from the area’s Better Cable Group campaign group, has cautiously welcomed the plans: “It does demonstrate that alternatives in this area can be found that are less destructive to the area, so we welcome the alternative route point as the beginning of a discussion with SSEN.”

Meanwhile, in the Southern section between Dingwall and Beauly, SSEN Transmission will progress with the route on the original consultation.

Responding to the news, campaigner Lyndsey Ward from the organisation Communities B4 Power companies said: “I think this is the worst fight ever, if this goes ahead, I think The Highlands will be lost.”

New plans mean there will now be another consultation process on affected routes.

SSEN says they will listen and work with all communities affected.

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