Summary

SSE’s “preferred southern corridor” (as extended in February 2016) now would run within clear sight of Bennachie. This is a Special Landscape Area (SLA) for Aberdeenshire’s 2016 Local Plan which recognises the importance of Bennachie to Aberdeenshire’s landscape identity, its amenity and popularity with visitors and its intervisibility with the surrounding landscape. Erection of 50m pylons in this area is not compatible with an SLA (and is contrary to Holford Rule #1).

The new corridor also passes closely between four category A castles or historic buildings and their surrounding planned landscapes with long histories that are used for amenity, outdoor activities and which attract many visitors (contrary to Holford Rule #2).

The corridor also crosses the National Trust for Scotland’s Castle Trail which is recognized by NTS and VisitScotland for its contribution to local tourism. The new line with 50m high pylons will detract from visitors and business opportunities, not to mention the amenity (nature-watching, walking, cycling, photography, art, history, running, golf, fishing etc) in the area.

The extended corridor lies south of the Bennachie range. It is in most part flat-lying and gently rolling ground. The planned 50m high pylons would be seen not only from Bennachie but from one end to almost the other – a distance of 6 miles. This is  contrary to Holford Rules #4 and #5).

400Kv lines close to residential properties or where members of the public regularly frequent will lead to health issues for both humans and animals – indicated by latest research which neither the National Grid or SSE have taken into account.

Construction and operation of a 400Kv power line thourghout its lifetime (40 years minimum) above two high pressure gas pipelines next to Craigearn would present their residents and others neighbouring with significant additional Health, Safety and Environmental risks. SSE have not identified these risks and therefore envisage no mitigation for them.

Huge numbers of over-wintering geese and swans (including whoopers) feed over winter in the fields in this area and will be adversely impacted and risk collision with the cables – not good for the birds … or security of supply (one reason SSE gave for the need for this line).

The overall need to carry new renewable energy south to the central belt and onward to England is not questioned. However,  the proposed line design is at least 50 years old and SSE provide no alternative options to  adopt newer more efficient technologies. SSE should fully evaluate a  clear alternative to put the new line offshore via Peterhead and Firth of Forth using HVDC (and also harness expertise from the suffering North-East’s oil industry).

The National Grid has dedicated £500m to replacing existing overhead lines with underground cables in England.  SSE (agent of the National Grid in Scotland) wants to put new huge pylons  through Special Landscape Areas in Scotland. Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing?

After reviewing SSE’s documents and later information, it is not clear that SSE have been reasonable in reaching the decisions they have (which will end up ringing Bennachie with pylons and taking a longer route – contrary to Holford Rule #3). The confusing, opaque and over-short consultation process shows how a major corporation is trying to push through an unwelcome project on the sly.