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SAVE STRATHDEARN

Scroll down to read about our campaign to save the beautiful Strathdearn scenery

It’s our duty to protect Strathdearn

The Campaign was launched in June 2014 and thanks to supporters some progress has been made to protect this much-loved Glen. Below is a brief description of Strathdearn followed by “The Story So Far.”

Strathdearn is the name of the upper Findhorn valley which runs from the Streens up to Coignafearn, in the heart of the Monadhliath Mountains. Locally it is affectionately known as “The Glen.”

It is a wild glen of differing landscapes and many moods – sometimes tranquil, sometimes brooding, sometimes furiously stormy – but always atmospheric and special. It’s not unusual to have several seasons’ weather in a single day.

Strathdearn is world-famous for its diverse bird population, especially raptors and waders and many thousands of bird watchers visit each year.

The upper reaches of the rock-strewn River Findhorn flow through a steep-sided glen with rapid run-off following heavy rain or fast snow-melt. It is famous for having the highest recorded spate flow of any river in the UK and is also well known for the bores – great walls of water – which speed downstream after heavy rain. The river and its tributaries are important breeding grounds for wild salmon and trout.

For those interested in plants, the Glen supports a wonderful variety, from colourful meadowland species on the river flats to dwarf montane species at the head of the Glen.

The numerous historic sites and rich social history of Strathdearn are fascinating. Stories of Dalarossie Church and its graveyard dating back to the eighth century, of the amazing achievements of the MacGillivray family from Garbole and the construction of the iconic Findhorn Viaduct are examples.

This is Strathdearn – a Highland Glen to be treasured. A place to be enjoyed now and protected for future generations to enjoy.

However, in November 2013 Scottish Hydro Electric-Transmission (SHE-T) announced a project which threatened to industrialise the Glen. It was a worrying time and some people felt there was no chance of such a major organisation changing its plans.

Undeterred, following some local meetings, Save Strathdearn Campaign was launched. The banners, leaflets, website and media coverage prompted hundreds of protests to SHE-T from residents and visitors – AND prompted a change to SHE-T’s plans!

The Story So Far.
“The Threat” describes SHE-T’s original plan and “The Alternative” gives details of the alternative site put forward by the Campaign. “A Compromise” briefly explains the current situation following SHE-T’s July 2015 update. For a more detailed update click on “News” to see the August Newsletter.

THE THREAT

November 2013

The Glen was under threat of industrialisation on an unprecedented scale.

SHE-T was proposing to construct an open-air electricity substation bigger than fourteen football fields at Garbole, 5 miles up the Glen from Tomatin. Double circuit powerlines on large pylons would converge at Garbole from all directions bringing electricity from various wind farms (several not even approved). A 275,000 volt double circuit powerline would leave the substation on pylons up to 200 feet (60m) high and run along the west side of the hill road from Garbole to Farr.

A substation at Garbole and powerlines in all directions over the hills and along the Glen would have ruined the beauty of Strathdearn. Irreparable damage would have been caused to the natural, historic and cultural heritage of the strath and amenity destroyed for local people and thousands of visitors who come to enjoy this spectacular area.

THE ALTERNATIVE

November 2013

An alternative site for the substation was proposed by an engineer with a lifetime of experience in the electricity supply industry. The site, close to the southern end of the operational Farr wind farm was visually much less intrusive than the Garbole site. Also it could be accessed along an existing forestry road off the A9(T) used during the construction of the Farr wind farm. This would avoid the threatened closure and upgrading of the Glen road to allow transport of huge transformers to Garbole as well as the worrying prospect of greatly increased heavy traffic along the narrow roads of Tomatin village.

SHE-T referred to the Campaign’s proposed alternative site as “Site 6”. It was peremptorily eliminated as unsuitable, some very feeble reasons being given.

A Compromise

The substation has been relocated from the roadside at Garbole up into the forest. Providing the commercial timber crop is not felled before the trees planted by SHE-T  grow to a reasonable height, the structure should be screened from the Glen.

SHE-T referred to this location as “site 5” in its original literature and eliminated it on grounds of being too small an area. Apparently the site put forward by the Campaign (site 6) was refused by the landowner because it was “on part of his grouse moor.” Site 5 was offered as an alternative and SHE-T claims it has to accept this rather than compulsorily purchase the land at site 6.                                                                                                                                 The substation will now be gas-cooled rather than air-cooled. This requires a smaller area and site 5 has re-emerged as suitable. It will form the basis of the planning application to be submitted to the Highland Council in September 2015.

Three major concerns – noise, site access and powerline routes – remain unresolved.

Noise: SHE-T has said that details of noise monitoring will be provided in the planning application and that “lessons have been learnt” from the problems occurring at the Wester Balblair substation notorious for causing the “Beauly Buzz.”

Site Access: The Campaign continues to call for ALL construction traffic to access the substation site via the Farr wind farm haul road in order to avoid use of the busy, narrow public roads through Tomatin village and along the Glen. SHE-T has said that it is “still in negotiations with the landowners.” These are the Forestry Commission and the owner of Farr and Glen Kyllachy estates who is a beneficiary of the operational Farr wind farm, the recently approved Glen Kyllachy wind farm and parts of the grid reinforcement project.

SHE-T HAS SAID THAT A PLANNING APPLICATION FOR THE SUBSTATION AND SITE ACCESS WILL BE SUBMITTED TO HIGHLAND COUNCIL “IN LATE SEPTEMBER.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: THE PUBLIC WILL HAVE ONLY 14 DAYS IN WHICH TO STUDY THE PLANS AND SUBMIT REPRESENTATIONS TO HIGHLAND COUNCIL.

Notice of the consultation period will be posted in the “News” section of Save Strathdearn Campaign’s website together with an outline of what is proposed and a link to the Council’s eplanning website. If you have concerns or object to all or part of the project please submit your representation to Highland Council within the 14-day statutory consultation period.

PROPOSED POWERLINE ROUTES: SHE-T has agreed to move the 275kV line from Garbole to Knocknagael from the west to the east side of the Garbole to Farr road, therefore allowing uninterrupted views into the Monadhliath Hills from the west side.

Electricity from the operational 40-turbine Farr wind farm will be routed into the Tomatin substation together with that from the adjacent consented 20-turbine Glen Kyllachy wind farm when/if it is constructed.

Tom nan Clach wind farm on Cawdor estate has contracted a grid connection to the new substation. The developer plans to submit a revised planning application at the end of August 2015 for 13x125m high turbines instead of 17 at 110m high. The wind farm site is a considerable distance from Tomatin substation and all the “possible” powerline routes proposed by SHE-T would have adverse landscape and visual impacts.

RWE Innogy Ltd. the developer for the proposed Allt Duine wind farm (on the western boundary of the Cairngorms National Park) also contracted a grid connection to Tomatin substation. However, the good news is that planning consent for Allt Duine has been refused and there will be one less ugly powerline spanning the Dulnain and Findhorn valleys.

Protect the beauty

Take a look at some of our favouirte Strathdearn photographs

Strathdearn

Strathdearn

Proposed substation site above Garbole

Proposed substation site above Garbole

This photo shows a good view of the site and its environs

Strathdearn

This photo shows the historic Garbole bridge and the proposed site and again illustrates the beautiful scenery in the area

Strathdearn

This photo illustrates the proximity of nearby dwellings

Strathdearn

Strathdearn

Strathdearn

SSE REINFORCEMENT - view of Strathdearn from Balvraid road (DB)

View of Strathdearn from Balvraid Road

SSE REINFORCEMENT - view looking down from top of Glenkyllachy road in winter (DB)

View Looking Down from Glenkyllachy Road

SSE REINFORCEMENT - summer view at Coignafearn (DB)

Summer View at Coignafearn

SSE REINFORCEMENT - Garbole Bridge under snow - looking north down the Glen photo 4

Garbole Bridge Under Snow

Dalarossie Church 2

Dalarossie Church

Dalarossie Church

Dalarossie Church

Findhorn Upper

Upper Findhorn

Strathdearn

Strathdearn