SSE Consultation Flaws

SSE’s consultation process with respect to our area has been conducted desperately inadequately:

  • SSE’s reasons for expanding the southern corridor northward at the last minute in 2016 are incomprehensible and reveal a severe logic problem with SSE’s planning methodology. SSE initially identified three initial corridors, they evaluated each against the other, and one corridor in each section of the route was “preferred”. So far so good. Then having completed their consultation, SSE suddenly chose a completely new narrow corridor (this one) for consideration. They masked that it was a new corridor by saying that it was just an ‘extension’ but they did not then go back and evaluate this against the existing central and northern corridors.
  • Although the word “Reinforcement” as part of the name for this project appears to be in common use in the electricity transmission industry, contacting members of the public with only this term implied to many, myself included, that this was merely to strengthen the existing pylons, insulators and conductors. Indeed, another very similarly name project to do just that had just taken place. SSE’s literature did not clearly indicate that this was an entirely new line in an entirely new area. It was misleading, verging on the dishonest and has ruined any trust that many may have established towards SSE.
  • SSE’s notification to people potentially affected by this entirely new 400Kv line was completely ineffective; in talking to neighbours and other locals, many were completely unaware of what is intended or the time line for consultation.
  • Dialogue with SSE’s “Community Liaison Officer” has been generally uninformative – only result has been to extend the time for comment to less than that for other corridors. At times when I asked for information, her email said she was unable to respond due to taking leave – this was a shorter consultation period than afforded to other corridors. No back-up “liaison officer” responded instead – remarkable for a project which will cost many hundreds of millions of pounds!  Her responses have many times been obtuse, confusing, unhelpful and continually referring people anxious for better information only to the SSE website which still contains out of date and misleading information, especially about dates to make comment on SSE’s consultation. This can only appear to be a deliberate ploy by a professional spin doctor. The experience did not engender trust in SSE’s consultation processes.
  • Those who attended SSE’s consultation event in Monymusk on 9 March 2016 at Monymusk Hall were given a stamped addressed envelope to return our comments to SSE. This was addressed in hand-writing to Jenna Black of SSE. Her email replies (23 Apr 2016) that she had already been on maternity leave since 15 Jan 2016! Given the obvious spin from SSE, this causes me doubt that SSE would actually accept my comments if they had been sent to someone on maternity leave? Of course, I would hope so. Nevertheless, I wish Jenna well and sincerely hope she has a lovely healthy young baby by now.
  • The new corridor is narrow with two pinch points both less than 1km wide. In reality only one route for pylons can be chosen between Cluny and Monymusk. And the line can only go either north or south of Craigearn (which will then be over high pressure gas pipelines either side). This makes a mockery of using the expression “corridor”, which implies the final route could lie anywhere within it, since there really are only very restricted routes available at these points.
  • SSE employees at the Monymusk meeting on 9 March 2016 gave one reason for looking at this new area as “a landowner invited us to take this opportunity”. It appears that SSE is buying its way between A and B using the promise of handsome compensation payments to only one or two individual landowners. Has SSE already made verbal or written indication that it will pay compensation for such way-leave considerations?
  • The revised narrow corridor would seriously affect a number of small crofters and SSE cannot guarantee that pylons and powerlines would be further than their target distance of 100m from any property
  • Local residents were initially given only 4 weeks to respond following a consultation meeting at Monymusk on 9 March 2016 compared to 12 weeks consultation for the original “preferred corridor” which started on 27 October 2015. On appeal, SSE increased this to 6 May 2016, but as this period overlapped with Easter holidays and subsequently the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament there has been limited opportunity to call on our local representatives for support. Subsequent requests were turned down with flawed reasoning (saying that time from last consultation in other areas was less than this area has now been given – flawed because other areas were provided 13 consultation events and full documentation over much longer period than in this area).
  • SSE stated in Monymusk that there will be no compensation to anyone other than landowners on whose land the pylons are located. The project will impact directly on the value of people’s homes and properties. It is well known that new power lines affect house and land valuations; figures of 20% – 40% reduction in building and land prices are reported.
  • Instead of routing the line through the original wide corridor to the south of Castle Fraser where there is space to minimise disruption, SSE are considering running the line very near to a hamlet of 28 houses at Craigearn with no options to minimise impact – and no compensation (such as they will provide to the large landowners).