Newsletter update – September 2016

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Garbole substation site visit 9 September 2016                                                                                              The site visit organised by the case officer in connection with the Garbole substation planning application was described by the majority of attendees as “shambolic.”

The nearest point visited was 1.6km away from the site and on more than one occasion a local resident had to correct the information given regarding the location of the substation in Garbole wood. The visit failed to give Councillors any insight into the issues associated with development at site 5 and a number of Councillors also complained about a lack of information in their papers for the planning application.

Councillors re-convened in the Council chamber in the afternoon for the Pre-determination Hearing followed by determination of the planning application. However, two of our local councillors, Cllrs. Crawford and Gowans put forward a motion for deferral until a proper site visit had taken place. Councillors agreed to hear the planning officer’s report before deciding if they had sufficient information to make an informed decision. The vote was in favour of deferral and another site visit will take place to the actual site, probably late October/early November. In addition, proper visuals have been requested to show how the substation, powerlines, pylons and buzz bar connections will look if constructed.

The Campaign continues to oppose site 5 with its wealth of wildlife which will be wiped out if the substation is constructed here. The alternative site 6 in a hollow on the moorland at the southern end of the Farr wind farm is environmentally much less sensitive and although we would prefer not to have any more of this type of infrastructure despoiling the landscape, if it is deemed to be essential it should be located at site 6.

The site visit saw a good turn-out of objectors from the village, Glen and further afield and councillors commented that their input was very helpful. Our Campaign banner read:

MESSAGE TO COUNCILLORS

Garbole has a rich natural heritage and is steeped in history.

For centuries it has been a very special place in “The Glen.”

Please play your part to ensure it remains so for future generations.

Vote “REFUSE” to substation development at site 5.

This photo illustrates the proximity of nearby dwellings

Newsletter – September 2016

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Proposed substation at Garbole recommended for approval by planning officer.

The planning application for the substation proposed for site 5 in Garbole Wood will be determined at a meeting of the full Highland Council on Friday 9 September. Councillors will vote to refuse or approve the development. They will also consider a new 275kV powerline proposed to run from Knocknagael substation (near Inverness) over the hills to Garbole substation (if approved). The overhead line will consist of approximately 60 pylons with a maximum height of 60m (195 ft) and an average span of 300m (975 ft). Highland Council is a statutory consultee for this application and members will vote to either object or raise no objection.

These sessions will take place at Highland Council HQ, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness and are scheduled to begin at 1.00pm. They will be webcast.

Determination of the substation application will be preceeded by a pre-determination hearing during which the applicant, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHE-T) and the objectors will be permitted to state their cases. Councillors will have the opportunity to ask questions and will then debate the application and finally vote on it.

A site visit will take place in the morning of 9 September to allow Councillors to see at first hand what is proposed. Hopefully they will experience the ambience around Garbole which makes it such a special place for so many people, locals and visitors alike.

The planning officer has produced his report for Councillors and unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, recommended members approve the substation application and raise no objection to the 275kV powerline.

Both these developments will intrude into the Strathdearn landscape but this threat has been dismissed as a minor issue. We maintain that it is NOT a minor issue for local people who hold ‘The Glen’ in great affection or for the thousands of visitors for whom the unspoilt upper Findhorn Valley is often the highlight of their travels.

The alternative site (known as site 6) proposed by the Campaign, would avoid an unsightly industrial development close to Garbole Bridge and a heavy 275kV powerline on pylons intruding into the unspoilt Strathdearn landscape.

We are up against a very powerful company and a Scottish Government whose dictatorial planning policy promotes industrialisation of some of Scotland’s most precious countryside, regardless of the views of local communities and the many visitors who help support their rural economies.

We will do our very best to convince Councillors that Garbole should not be sacrificed but should remain unspoilt for present and future generations.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has supported the Campaign. For those of you who have recently become aware of the threats to the Garbole area, please see the Newsletters posted on the Campaign website for historical information from the time SHE-T proposed a substation in the Glen to the present day.

website: www.savestrathdearn.com

email: info@savestrathdearn.com

 

 

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

July 2016 Newsletter

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The saga of the proposed electricity substation in Garbole Wood continues! The Campaign’s May Newsletter highlighted concerns about the potential destruction of an area with a rich biodiversity and a history dating back many centuries. (see www.savestrathdearn.com).

Unfortunately extensive tree felling around the proposed location (referred to as “site 5”) was carried out by Scottish Hydro Electric-Transmission plc (SHE-T) at the start of the breeding season for the many birds and animals in the area. Significant volumes of timber, both young and mature trees, were felled and mulched on site without a felling licence from Forestry Commission Scotland and prior to any planning consent for the development. The Campaign challenged the legality of this activity and the issues are now the subject of investigation and consideration at national level.

Local Campaign members were aware that site 5 had a variety of habitats which supported a rich diversity of plant and animal life. Scant notice was taken of this in the developer’s Environmental Appraisal (EA) and it was decided to undertake our own ecological survey before it was too late.

The work was carried out by Dr A M Jones, an experienced field ecologist. The Report can be seen on the Campaign website (www.savestrathdearn.com). The findings confirm our contention that site 5 is ecologically important and should not be destroyed by construction of a substation and associated infrastructure.

When the planning application was first submitted by SHE-T, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) declined to comment on the natural heritage interest of the site. However, in light of the report by Dr Jones SNH has now provided advice to the planning officer at Highland Council.

Construction of electricity substations is considered “national development” and therefore any planning applications have to be considered and determined by all Council members, not the Planning Committees alone. Highland Council has scheduled a Special Meeting of members on 9 September 2016 at its headquarters in Inverness. The Campaign is requesting, through our elected representatives, that a site visit takes place prior to consideration of the application, in order for members to make a fully informed decision.

It remains our belief that site 6, the alternative site proposed by the Campaign at the southern end of the Farr wind farm turbines, is visually and environmentally much less sensitive than site 5 (the option provided to SHE-T by the landowner). This area is already industrialised with 41 turbines and there is consent for 20 more larger ones.
Locating the substation at site 6 will avoid the need to drive a road through Garbole wood from the Farr wind farm haul road extension and also eliminate the visual intrusion of more pylons and powerlines in Strathdearn, around the area of site 5. In addition the substation itself will be visible from the Glen if the commercial timber crop between it and the Glen road is harvested or subject to windthrow. Construction at site 6 will avoid this problem. It will take many years for any trees planted by SHE-T around the site to grow tall enough to provide adequate screening of the building.

Details of the planning application can be viewed on the Highland Council eplanning website, using the “simple search” facility and reference 16/00769/FUL.

As always, we welcome your comments – mail to: info@savestrathdearn.com

Unfortunately we have been forced to stop stocking the leaflet box at Garbole due to the continuing removal of all the Newsletters by Glen Kyllachy estate, on whose land the proposed substation is planned. A notice has been erected with information on where the Newsletters are still available locally.

We have used up all the funds kindly donated by supporters to help “Save Strathdearn” and further funding is needed to continue this battle. Donations will be very welcome. Please send to: “Save Strathdearn Campaign, Office 324, 24 Station Square, Inverness IV1 1LD.

On behalf of the Campaign, thank you for your support. We will continue to work hard to convince decision –makers that site 5 is not the correct location for the substation, and historic Garbole Bridge is not the correct location to construct access tracks from the Glen Road to it.

Ending on a positive note, despite the changeable weather hundreds of visitors have enjoyed many days in the Glen nature-watching. Descriptions like “fantastic”, “the best day of the holiday” and “it would be a sin to destroy this wonderful place” are often heard together with the comment that sums it all up – “This Glen is very, very special – don’t let it be ruined.”


 

Click here to download the Ecological Report.

Gathering1

May 2016 Newsletter

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Electricity substation proposed at Garbole, near Tomatin

Scottish Hydro Electric-Transmission (SHE-T) has now submitted a planning application to Highland Council for the substation and access routes. Fourteen days were permitted for the public to submit timeous representations but we are assured by the Council’s Planning and Development Dept. that all other representations will be considered up to the time of producing its report and recommendation to Councillors.

The planning application and supporting documents can be viewed on the Highland Council website www.eplanning@highland.gov.uk . Click on the “simple search” facility and enter the reference 16/00769/FUL.

The Campaign’s representations to Highland Council are posted on our website (www.savestrathdearn.com). The planning application documents contain numerous ambiguous and contradictory statements allowing SHE-T to keep all options open. The Farr wind farm haul road is quoted for use by “construction traffic” but despite the outcry against any access from the Glen road at Garbole there are TWO access points shown, one of which is very close to Garbole Bridge. The planning application states that “operational traffic” will be routed along the Glen road.

Several people have noticed that a considerable amount of tree felling has already occurred at site 5 (the site chosen by SHE-T and the subject of the planning application), even though the planning application has not been considered by Highland Council, let alone granted consent. This “bulldozing” approach by SHE-T is unacceptable and there is concern for potential adverse impact on wildlife in the area.

SHE-T’s Environmental Appraisal (EA) makes for depressing reading. It concedes that the ecology of the site (which includes high quality blanket bog) will be destroyed, and the (rich) heritage assets in and around the site will be irreparably damaged or destroyed. In addition the habitats of red and amber-listed birds and protected species such as pine marten, red squirrel, goshawk and several others will be disrupted. Visual screening of the site is totally dependent on the commercial conifer plantations remaining until the native species SHE-T claims will be planted, have grown tall enough – a slow process in the climate at Garbole. Currently there is no guarantee that the trees will not be harvested by the estate in the near future.

These conclusions and other concerns about noise, vibration, watercourse pollution and a plethora of powerlines, pylons and trident poles resulted in a unanimous decision at the Campaign’s public meeting on 19 March to object to the development.

The Campaign’s August Newsletter reported that SHET had agreed to relocate the proposed substation from the original controversial location close to Garbole Bridge, into the forest above Garbole (known as site 5). Thanks to all who wrote to SHET protesting about the original site and supporting site 6 at the south end of the Farr wind farm turbines as a less damaging option. Unfortunately the landowner was unwilling to allow the development at site 6 because it would affect grouse shooting activities. SHE-T has also listed other reasons why site 6 was not its preferred option, but ironically site 5 should be considered unacceptable for the same and many other reasons.

Grid connections

Originally three wind farms had contracted grid connections to the proposed substation but Allt Duine (31-turbines planned by RWE for the Monadhliath Mountains west of Kincraig) has been refused.

The two remaining wind farms are Glen Kyllachy (20 x 125m high turbines sited either side of the 41-turbine Farr wind farm) and Tom nan Clach on the Dava Moor, 7km north east of Tomatin.

Glen Kyllachy: Highland Council’s South Planning Applications Committee (SPAC) unanimously refused the Glen Kyllachy application but it was eventually approved by Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP following a shamefully biased and undemocratic appeal process undertaken by the DPEA (Directorate for Environmental and Planning Appeals). The developer once again is RWE.

Tom nan Clach: Nanclach, the Cawdor Estate/Infinergy consortium planning to construct Tom nan Clach wind farm currently has planning approval for a “compact development” of 17 x 110m high turbines. SHET has produced a map showing possible powerline routes from the Tom nan Clach site to the proposed substation at site 5. Unfortunately all the routes invade unspoilt hills and glens between the wind farm site miles away on the Dava Moor and the proposed substation. The powerline will be carried on double trident poles 18m (almost 60 feet) high. This is another example of the nonsense of generating electricity in remote, scenic locations and then trailing huge wires across wild, spectacular countryside.

The Tom nan Clach saga has been on-going for six years. Initially our concerns related to the Dava Moor, its peat soils and wildlife and the adverse visual impact that would result from both the Lochindorb and Strathdearn sides of the development. We now have the prospect of a 132kV powerline from the site to Strathdearn.

In October 2015 the company submitted a new planning application for 13 x 125m high turbines, arguing it intended to “re-power” the consented development by installing larger turbines which would produce more electricity for the same installed capacity – in other words it would provide a larger financial return for them. More wind-generated electricity is certainly not required to keep the lights on!

There were 161 objections to the new application and 4 letters in support. The objectors included 4 local community councils, the John Muir Trust, Strathdearn Against Windfarm Developments, Save Our Dava and RSPB. We maintain that the turbines will be visually much more intrusive, have a significantly larger blade sweep (impacting on ground-nesting species) and will cover a wider area of the designated Drynachan, Lochindorb and Dava Moor Special Landscape Area (SLA). Even the smaller development will industrialise an area of the SLA and impact adversely on the much-loved view from the shores of Lochindorb, with turbines “sprouting” from the ruins of historic Lochindorb Castle. The repowering scheme is very much worse.

Following a site visit on 18 January 2016 by Highland Council’s South Planning Committee to a snow and ice-covered Dava Moor and Lochindorb the committee unanimously refused the planning application, despite a recommendation by the planning officer to grant consent. It was heartening to hear Councillors acknowledge that the Dava, just like Strathdearn, is a very special place for many thousands of people.

In Scotland developers still have a right of appeal if planning consent is refused by planning committees representing the views of local communities. If Scotland followed the democratic planning process for wind farm applications which now prevails in England, Highland Council’s refusal of Tom nan Clach would have terminated the process because local communities have clearly demonstrated that they do not want this development. Regrettably, the views of local communities count for nothing when it comes down to Scottish Government policy on wind farm developments, associated powerlines and ugly substations.

Inevitably Nanclach has appealed against the decision made by our democratically elected councillors and is threatening to charge costs to cash-strapped Highland Council should the appeal be upheld. The public had until 5 April 2016 to lodge representations to the DPEA. (Appeal reference number : PPA-27002150.) The DPEA website states that the appeal will be determined by “a site visit.” We have requested that the site visit is accompanied (not undertaken by the Reporter alone on an “unaccompanied” visit). We were looking for a genuine democratic appeal process to be followed by the DEPA on this occasion, in contrast to the sham which passed for the Glen Kyllachy appeal.

Once again, thanks to everyone who helped to persuade SHET to replace a large air-cooled substation* at one of the Glen’s famous locations with a smaller gas-cooled version at an alternative location. It is very disappointing that SHE-T has so far refused to implement its power of compulsory purchase (used on several occasions along the Beauly-Denny route and elsewhere) to acquire site 6 as the alternative location, instead of destroying the richer biodiversity and cultural heritage prevailing at site 5. At the very least we will be looking to Highland Council to attach a number of strong conditions to any approval for site 5 to genuinely protect the natural environment, wildlife and heritage assets. The application is expected to be considered by the full Council on 20 June 2016.

We have not given up attempts to have the substation sited completely out of the Glen and located at site 6, if indeed the huge financial cost to electricity consumers can be justified at all for only two grid connections, Glen Kyllachy and Tom nan Clach, assuming they receive the necessary financial investment to allow construction.

We have challenged SHE-T’s original justification for the substation, based on “the need for increased network capacity to accommodate the significant volumes of additional wind generation forecast for the south of Inverness.” Will these “significant volumes” materialise given the financial constraints facing onshore wind generation imposed by the UK government in order to reduce electricity costs? We hope not because electricity generation at wind farms on hills in remote high value landscape locations far from point of use means substations and networks of powerlines, pylons and poles to facilitate grid connections.

We do not want the beautiful upper Findhorn Valley to be enclosed by a cage of powerlines. Strathdearn deserves better than such a fate.

                                                                                                      

March 2016 Newsletter

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Electricity substation proposed at Garbole, near Tomatin

Scottish Hydro Electric-Transmission (SHE-T) has submitted a planning application to Highland Council for the substation and access routes.

Fourteen days were permitted for the public to submit timeous representations but we are assured by the Planning and Development Dept. that other representations will be considered up to the time a recommendation is made to Councillors.

The planning application and supporting documents can be viewed on the Highland Council website www.eplanning@highland.gov.uk . Click on the “simple search” facility and enter the reference 16/00769/FUL.

The Campaign’s representations to Highland Council are posted on our website (www.savestrathdearn.com). The planning application documents contain numerous ambiguous and contradictory statements allowing SHE-T to keep all options open. The Farr wind farm haul road is quoted for use by “construction traffic” but despite the outcry against any access from the Glen road at Garbole there are TWO access points shown, one very close to Garbole Bridge. “Operational traffic” will be routed along the Glen road.

SHE-T’s Environmental Appraisal (EA) makes for depressing reading. It concedes that the ecology of the site (which includes high quality blanket bog) will be destroyed, and the (rich) heritage assets in and around the site will be irreparably damaged or destroyed. In addition the habitats of red and amber-listed birds and protected species (pine marten, red squirrel, goshawk) will be disrupted. Screening of the site is totally dependent on the commercial conifer plantations remaining until the native species SHE-T says will be planted, are tall enough!

These conclusions and other concerns about noise, vibration, watercourse pollution and a plethora of powerlines, pylons and trident poles resulted in a unanimous decision at the Campaign’s public meeting on 19 March to object to the development.

The Campaign’s August Newsletter reported that SHET had agreed to relocate the proposed substation from the original controversial location close to Garbole Bridge, into the forest above Garbole (known as site 5). Thanks to all who wrote to SHET protesting about the original site and supporting site 6 at the south end of the Farr wind farm turbines as a less damaging option. Unfortunately the landowner was unwilling to allow the development at site 6 because it would affect grouse shooting activities. SHE-T has also listed other reasons why site 6 was not its preferred option, but ironically site 5 should be considered unacceptable for the same – and more – reasons.

Originally three wind farms had contracted grid connections to the proposed substation but Allt Duine (31-turbines planned by RWE for the Monadhliath Mountains west of Kincraig) has been refused.

The two remaining wind farms are Glen Kyllachy (20 x 125m high turbines sited either side of the 41-turbine Farr wind farm) and Tom nan Clach on the Dava Moor, 7km north east of Tomatin.

Glen Kyllachy

Highland Council’s South Planning Applications Committee (SPAC) unanimously refused the Glen Kyllachy application but it was eventually approved by Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP following a shamefully biased and undemocratic appeal process undertaken by the DPEA (Directorate for Environmental and Planning Appeals). The developer once again is RWE.

Tom nan Clach

Nanclach, the Cawdor Estate/Infinergy consortium planning to construct Tom nan Clach wind farm currently has planning approval for a “compact development” of 17 x 110m high turbines. The powerline will run many kilometres across unspoilt countryside to the proposed substation at site 5. The company submitted a new “repowering” planning application last year for 13 x 125m high turbines, arguing that the larger turbines will produce more electricity for the same installed capacity – in other words it would provide a larger financial return for them. More wind-generated electricity is certainly not required to keep the lights on! There were 161 objections to the new application and 4 letters in support. The objectors included 4 local community councils, the John Muir Trust, Strathdearn Against Windfarm Developments and Save Our Dava. We maintain that the turbines will be visually much more intrusive, have a significantly larger blade sweep (impacting on ground-nesting species) and will cover a wider area of the designated Drynachan, Lochindorb and Dava Moor Special Landscape Area (SLA). Even the smaller development will industrialise an area of the SLA and impact adversely on the much-loved view from the shores of Lochindorb. The repowering scheme is very much worse.

On 18 January 2016 Highland Council’s SPAC held a site visit. Dava Moor was snow-covered and Lochindorb frozen over. The scenery was spectacular and the silence palpable. A planning meeting took place in Inverness the following day and after considerable and at times passionate debate, the repowering planning application was unanimously refused by Councillors, despite the application being recommended for approval by the Planning officer. It was heartening to hear Councillors acknowledge that the Dava, just like Strathdearn, is a very special place for many thousands of people.

In Scotland developers still have a right of appeal, a right denied to objectors. If Scotland followed the democratic planning process for wind farm applications which now prevails in England, Highland Council’s refusal of Tom nan Clach would have terminated the process because local communities have clearly demonstrated that they do not want this development. Regrettably, the views of local communities count for nothing when it comes down to Scottish Government policy on wind farm developments and associated powerlines.

Inevitably Nanclach has appealed against the decision made by our democratically elected councillors and is threatening to charge costs to cash-strapped Highland Council should the appeal be upheld. The public has until 5 April 2016 to lodge representations to the DPEA.
(address: DPEA, 4 The Courtyard, Callendar Business Park, Falkirk FK1 1XR.
email: DPEA@gov.scot Appeal reference number is: PPA-27002150.)

The DPEA website states that the appeal will be determined by “a site visit.” We will request that the site visit is accompanied (not undertaken by the Reporter alone on an “unaccompanied” visit) and we expect a proper democratic appeal process to be followed by the DEPA on this occasion, in contrast to the sham which passed for the Glen Kyllachy appeal.

SHET has produced a map showing possible powerline routes from the Tom nan Clach site to the new substation. Unfortunately all the routes invade unspoilt hills and glens between the wind farm site miles away on the Dava Moor and the new substation above Garbole. This is another example of the nonsense of generating small amounts of electricity in remote, scenic locations and then trailing huge wires across wild, spectacular countryside.

Once again, thanks to everyone who helped to persuade SHET to replace a large air-cooled substation* at one of the Glen’s famous locations with a smaller gas-cooled version at an alternative location. It is very disappointing that SHE-T has so far refused to implement its power of compulsory purchase (used on several occasions along the Beauly-Denny route and elsewhere) to acquire site 6 instead of destroying the richer biodiversity and cultural heritage prevailing at site 5 and its environs. At the very least we will be looking to Highland Council to attach a number of strong conditions to any approval for site 5 to genuinely protect the natural environment, wildlife and heritage assets. The application is expected to be considered by the full Council on 20 June 2016.

We have not given up hope of getting the substation completely out of the Glen and located at site 6, providing of course that such huge financial cost to electricity consumers can be justified at all for only two grid connections, assuming the wind farms themselves receive the necessary financial investment to allow construction.

We have challenged SHE-T’s original justification for the substation, based on “the need for increased network capacity to accommodate the significant volumes of additional wind generation forecast for the south of Inverness.” Will these “significant volumes” materialise given the financial constraints facing onshore wind generation imposed by the UK government in order to reduce electricity costs? We hope not because electricity generation from wind on hills in remote locations far from point of use means networks of powerlines to and from substations to facilitate grid connections.

We do not want the beautiful upper Findhorn Valley to be surrounded by a cage of powerlines. Strathdearn deserves better than such a fate.                                               

*Details of the original plan are shown in the Save Strathdearn leaflet.
website: www.savestrathdearn.com email: info@savestrathdearn.com

Attachments:

  1. Letter sent to Mr K McCorquodale, Planning & Development, Highland Council, 19.3.16.
  2. Letter sent to Mr K McCorquodale, Planning & Development, Highland Council, 24.3.16.

Substation Planning Application Submitted

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IMPORTANT INFORMATION

SUBSTATION PLANNING APPLICATION SUBMITTED

Deadline for representations is Friday 25 March 2016

Scottish Hydro Electric-Transmission (SHE-T) has submitted the planning application for the controversial substation near Tomatin which generated the Save Strathdearn Campaign!

The application will be advertised in the Inverness Courier on Friday 11 March 2016, following which there will be only 14 days in which to make representations to Highland Council.

The proposed substation is classified as “national development” and therefore will be reported to and discussed at a full Highland Council meeting, probably in June.

Details of the proposal can be viewed on the Council’s eplanning website. Google eplanning@highland.gov.uk. Click on “Simple search” and use the planning reference 16/00769/FUL. Click on “documents” to view the Environmental Appraisal Main Report etc.

According to the application the substation will be located in the commercial plantation above Garbole (originally referred to as site 5) and HGV’s and abnormal loads will access the site via the Farr wind farm haul road. In addition both tracks from Garbole to the site will be upgraded.

SHE-T and the landowner have made a concession in relocating the substation from the original site at Garbole to site 5 but unfortunately several issues remain which have  not been adequately addressed. These issues would not have arisen if site 6 at the southern end of the Farr wind farm had not been refused by the landowner because (according to SHE-T) “it was part of his grouse moor.”

The Campaign will submit a representation once all the details have been studied. You may also wish to make your own views known to Highland Council regarding the impact of this development.

It would be appreciated if you copied your letter to info@savestrathdearn.com

Finally, the Campaign is holding a public meeting to discuss the implications of the proposal.

This will take place on Saturday 19 March 2016 at 2.30pm in Tomatin Village Hall.

All interested are welcome.

The proposed substation site in the plantation above Garbole – currently no buildings, no roads, no powerlines and pylons

Views looking across the proposed snow-covered substation site from higher ground to the north

 

 

 

Strathdearn

February 2016 Newsletter

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Electricity substation proposed at Garbole, near Tomatin
The Campaign’s August Newsletter reported that Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHET) has agreed to relocate the proposed substation from the original controversial location close to Garbole bridge, up into the forest above Garbole. Thanks to all who wrote to SHET to protest about the original site.

Providing a large enough stand of conifers remains between the site and the Glen Road, the substation itself may be reasonably well screened but there is a danger it could be exposed by windblow before SHET’s proposed plantings grow tall enough. However, there will still be several large powerlines running to and from the site from “local” wind farms. Concerns remain about noise from transformers at the substation and buzz from overhead powerlines.

Last year SHET said a planning application for the substation would be submitted to Highland Council in September. This didn’t happen and we were given revised dates of late December 2015 or early January 2016 but still no application appeared.

Following enquiries by the Campaign SHET’s new Community Liaison Manager for the project has advised that an application will be submitted at the end of this month (February 2016). The delay is due to planning refusal for Allt Duine wind farm (31 turbines x 125m high – base to blade tip). The developer, RWE had contracted a grid connection prior to the final determination of its planning application by Scottish government ministers. The powerline route would have run from the wind farm in the Monadhliath Mountains west of Kincraig, across the hills and straths to the substation above Garbole. Apparently some re-design work has been required for the proposed substation as a result of the Allt Duine connection no longer being required.

Two wind farms remain with contracted grid connections to the new substation. These are Glen Kyllachy (20 x 125m high turbines sited either side of the 41-turbine Farr wind farm) and Tom nan Clach on the Dava Moor, 7km north east of Tomatin.

Glen Kyllachy
Highland Council’s South Planning Applications Committee (SPAC) unanimously refused the Glen Kyllachy application but it was eventually approved by Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP following a shamefully biased and undemocratic appeal process undertaken by the DPEA (Directorate for Environmental and Planning Appeals). The developer once again is RWE.

Tom nan Clach
Nanclach, the Cawdor Estate/Infinergy consortium planning to construct Tom nan Clach wind farm currently has planning approval for a “compact development” of 17 x 110m high turbines. However, the company submitted a new “repowering” planning application last year for 13 x 125m high turbines, arguing that the larger turbines will produce more electricity for the same installed capacity. There were 161 objections to the new application and 4 letters in support. The objectors included 5 local community councils, the John Muir Trust, Strathdearn Against Windfarm Developments and Save Our Dava. We maintain that the turbines will be visually much more intrusive, have a significantly larger blade sweep and will cover a wider area of the designated Drynachan, Lochindorb and Dava Moor Special Landscape Area.

On 18 January 2016 Highland Council’s SPAC held a site visit to a snow-covered Dava Moor and frozen-over Lochindorb. A planning meeting took place in Inverness the following day and after considerable and at times passionate debate, the repowering planning application was unanimously refused by Councillors, despite the application being recommended for approval by the Planning officer. It was heartening to hear Councillors acknowledge that the Dava, just like Strathdearn, is a very special place for many thousands of people.

In Scotland developers still have a right of appeal, a right denied to objectors. If Scotland followed the democratic planning process for wind farm applications which now prevails in England, Highland Council’s refusal of Tom nan Clach would have terminated the process because local communities clearly demonstrated that they do not want this development. Regrettably, the views of local communities count for nothing when it comes down to Scottish Government policy on wind farm developments.

No doubt once again there will be the inevitable appeal by Nanclach against the decision made by our democratically elected councillors. However, we expect a proper democratic appeal process to be followed by DEPA on this occasion, in contrast to the sham which passed for the Glen Kyllachy appeal.

SHET has produced a map showing possible powerline routes from the Tom nan Clach site to the new substation. Unfortunately all the routes invade unspoilt hills and glens between the wind farm site miles away on the Dava Moor and the substation above Garbole. This is another example of the nonsense of generating small amounts of electricity in remote, scenic locations and then trailing huge wires across wild, spectacular countryside.

Substation planning application
Once the planning application is submitted details will be posted on the Save Strathdearn Campaign website with our comments and contact details for Highland Council, should you wish to submit your views on the proposal.

Meantime, thank you to everyone who has helped to persuade SHET to replace a large air-cooled substation* at one of the Glen’s famous locations with a smaller gas-cooled version up in the forest. We trust the planning application will reflect this revised project together with access via the Farr wind farm haul road, not the Glen road.

*Details of the original plan are shown in the Save Strathdearn leaflet.                               

website: www.savestrathdearn.com
email: info@savestrathdearn.com

This photo hows the extent of the proposed site

August 2015 Newsletter

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The news is better than it was this time last year, but several issues remain unresolved.

Scottish Hydro Electric-Transmission (SHE-T) held drop-in events at Tomatin and Farr at the end of July to provide updates for the new Tomatin substation and access route and also for grid connections from wind farms in the area. The Beauly-Knocknagael-Tomatin Reinforcement project has been re-named and is now the Knocknagael-Tomatin Reinforcement. Unfortunately the drop-in events were rather light on factual details due, according to the SHE-T Team, to “ongoing negotiations with landowners.”  This is a frustrating ploy because once the planning application is submitted to Highland Council the public will have only 14 days to study the details and submit their representations.

SHE-T has advised its intention to submit a planning application in September 2015 for the substation and access route. Planning applications for grid connections from various wind farms south of Inverness are scheduled for submission to the Energy Consents and Development Unit (ECDU) in September 2016.

The SHE-T Team has said it listened to the protests of local people and visitors regarding its original site for the substation at Garbole. A member of the Team was quoted in the press describing the original site as “pretty disastrous” – and so said all of us!

The substation has been re-located from the roadside at Garbole up into the conifer forest on the 450m contour.  According to SHE-T’s recent update “The new substation will cover an area approximately 170m by 130m, plus cutting and temporary compound areas, required during the construction phase.” The structure will be approximately13m in height.

The site is smaller than originally planned because a gas-cooled system is now proposed rather than the original air-cooled system which apparently required a larger area. There will be a shed housing the gas-cooled switchgear with two transformers out in the open. Full details of SHE-T’s plans can be viewed on its website www.ssepd.co.uk/Knocknagaeltomatin

The site suggested by the Campaign, situated in a hollow on the moor at the south end of the Farr wind farm turbines (known as “site 6”) remains our first choice. However this has been refused by the landowner as “it is part of (his) grouse moor.” An alternative site (known as “site 5”) in the Garbole forest was offered by the landowner and SHE-T has said it has no choice other than to accept this. SHE-T claims compulsory purchase of site 6 is not an option because an alternative site has been offered.

Although site 5 is preferable to the original site close to the Glen road at Garbole several concerns remain, including adequate long-term screening of the substation, site access during and after construction, noise issues and powerline routes from various wind farms. Unfortunately SHE-T was unable to give definitive assurances on any of these issues at the recent drop-in events.

The issues are considered below:

Screening of the substation:
SHE-T has said that a band of conifer trees will be left “beyond maturity” to screen the site until the trees it plants as part of the project grow to a reasonable height. This sounds fine in theory but if the rest of the mature trees in the forest are felled as a commercial timber crop, the remaining trees providing the screening are likely to blow down, exposing views of the substation. We will address this issue when commenting on the planning application and request that a condition is attached to planning approval (if granted) to prevent this situation arising.

Access to the substation:
Access to the substation site was originally planned to come through Tomatin village and along the Glen road, which was to be “upgraded.” This plan was unacceptable to many local people and visitors and SHE-T was advised accordingly!
We asked for ALL construction traffic to access the site via the Farr wind farm haul road. This road leaves the A9(T) well north of Tomatin and would not impact on any residences or the local roads around Tomatin.  SHE-T says it hopes to make use of the haul road but is “still in negotiations with the landowners.”  We question why such “negotiations” are taking so long.The landowners in question are the Forestry Commission and the owner of Farr and Glen Kyllachy estates who currently benefits financially from the operational Farr wind farm and in future will benefit from the recently consented Glen Kyllachy wind farm and from parts of the Knocknagael – Tomatin Reinforcement.

Noise:
Noise from the installation continues to be a major concern, especially in light of the serious problems experienced at the Wester Balblair substation near Beauly. The Team has given assurances that lessons have been learnt from Wester Balblair and noise nuisance will be mitigated at the time of construction. However, much of the noise from transformers is low frequency and this is the range known to cause health problems in both humans and animals. Strict monitoring and control of noise will be essential.

Grid connections:
A wind farm developer can apply to the National Grid for a grid connection even before the proposed wind farm has planning approval.
Three wind farms south of Inverness – Glen Kyllachy, Tom nan Clach and Allt Duine applied for grid connection contracts. The wind farms fall within SHE-T’s licence area and it is therefore responsible for providing the infrastructure to connect them.

Glen Kyllachy was recently granted approval by Scottish Ministers following a decision by the Scottish Government Reporters Unit to uphold the developer’s appeal against refusal by Highland Council. The Reporter’s recommendation and final approval by John Swinney MSP came despite objections from two community councils, two local wind farm opposition groups, numerous individuals, serious concerns expressed by Scottish Natural Heritage and the unanimous refusal by Highland Council South Planning Committee. The grid connection powerline is shown running south through the forest from the Glen Kyllachy substation to the new Tomatin substation.

Tom nan Clach has planning approval for 17 turbines following a public local inquiry in 2011 but submission of a new planning application is imminent. The developer now wants to install 13 larger turbines 125m in height instead of 17 at 110m in height. The planning application is due to be submitted to Highland Council this September. The Tom nan Clach site is on Cawdor estate on the Dava Moor. This is a considerable distance from the Tomatin substation and all the possible powerline routes from Tom nan Clach to the Tomatin substation give cause for concern. SHE-T says the final route will depend on the result of negotiations with landowners.

Allt Duine. There is good news regarding the Allt Duine grid connection because this 31-turbine wind farm planned for mapped wild land in the Monadhliath Mountains between Kincraig and Aviemore has been refused by Scottish ministers. Providing the decision is not overturned, it means there will be one less ugly 132kV powerline marching over the hills to Strathdearn.

In conclusion, some progress has been made since SHE-T first announced its plans in November 2013.

  • the 275kV line from the Tomatin substation to Knocknagael has been moved to the east side of the hill road between Garbole and Farr to leave unimpeded views to the hills from the west side of the road
  • the substation has been relocated out of the Glen and will have a smaller footprint than before
  • SHE-T is negotiating with landowners for use of the Farr wind farm haul road to access the new substation and avoid use of the public roads through Tomatin village and along the Glen
  • Allt Duine wind farm has been refused
    – and importantly
  • SHE-T is now aware that its plan will continue to be scrutinised by a significant number of people and that unacceptable proposals will be challenged at the planning stage. Those for whom Strathdearn is a very special place look for satisfactory outcomes for the remaining unresolved issues referred to earlier in this newsletter.

We will not know final details until the various planning applications are submitted. The public will have only 14 days to study and comment on the planning application for the substation and access route (because Highland Council decided the development did not require an Environmental Impact Assessment).

When the planning applications are submitted to the ECDU for grid connection routes the public consultation period should be 28 days but even this is inadequate.

What do YOU think? Please let us have your comments or opinions. Contact email and postal addresses are given below.

Please watch the Campaign’s website in September for information on SHE-T’s planning application and forward any concerns to Highland Council.

Meantime, on behalf of Save Strathdearn Campaign, thank you for your support, especially if you wrote to SHE-T and/or donated to the Campaign. Several hundred letters to SHE-T resulted in an inappropriate industrial development being re-located out from the Glen – and that means progress towards protecting the wild beauty of Strathdearn.

 

Website: www.savestrathdearn.com

E-mail: info@savestrathdearn.com

Address: Office 324, 24 Station Square, Inverness IV1 1LD

Campaign letter to Scottish Hydro Electric-Transmission (SHE-T)

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SHE-T held a drop-in event in Tomatin in March to update the community on its plans for the Tomatin substation and access route and asked for comments from interested parties.
Thanks to Campaign supporters who took up the offer and wrote to SHE-T.

Below is the letter on behalf of the Campaign:

Please reply to: Save Strathdearn Campaign, Office 324, 24 Station Square Inverness IV1 1LD

Ms S O’Connor
SSE Corporate Affairs
Inveralmond House
Dunkeld Road
Perth PH1 3AQ

14 May 2015

Dear Ms O’Connor

Beauly-Knocknagael-Tomatin Reinforcement:
Proposed Electricity Substation Site and Access at Tomatin

The re-location of the proposed substation into the Garbole forest (referred to as “site 5” in your March 2015 Newsletter) is welcomed but must be accompanied by an undertaking to access site 5 via the Farr wind farm haul road (option 2 in your March 2015 Newsletter).

There were three issues in SHE-T’s original proposal (November 2013) which raised concerns and opposition from the community, visitors, several estates and wildlife tour businesses. The first was the siting of the substation at Garbole, second, the 275kV line on the west side of the Garbole to Farr road and third, access to the substation via the public roads through Tomatin village and along the Glen to access the substation.

Unfortunately the third issue remains unresolved and continues to be a significant cause for concern.

The strong opposition to use of the public roads (SHE-T’s “option 1”) to access the substation site was made clear to you and your colleagues at the March drop-in event held in Tomatin and we noted your assurance that the haul road will be used instead if this is the majority view. We would remind SHE-T that a significant number of the letters received earlier objecting to the original site at Garbole and supporting the alternative “site 6”also made it clear that access to an alternative site should be via the haul road and NOT the Glen road.

The land around Garbole is steeped in history and is an important part of Strathdearn’s culture. This includes the site SHE-T originally planned for the substation and the tracks into the forest. Dalarossie church and graveyard dates back many centuries and its peaceful setting is important for many in the community whose loved ones have been laid to rest there in more recent times.

The unspoilt setting of the old stone bridge at Garbole is treasured by local people and literally thousands of visitors to the Glen. It is obvious that an access route to site 5 leaving the Glen road in the vicinity of Garbole would scar this special area and we reiterate our strong objection to any such development.

Residents along the Glen road do not want it altered to allow transport of massive transformers and other infrastructure associated with SHE-T’s agendas for Strathdearn and visitors enjoy the drive along the single-track road with different views at every turn.

The road through Tomatin village is often busy with numerous track and road junctions in a short distance; a service bus stop; stops and waiting areas for several school buses; the local letter box and notice board and access to the shop, school, village hall, recycling unit, sports facility and church. There are limited footpaths and the road is much used by local people, including children, dog walkers, horse-riders and people using mobility scooters. It is also part of the Sustrans Route 7 cycle route used by a significant number of cyclists.

The increased volume of heavy traffic, noise, fumes, disruption and danger which would result from use of the public road through Tomatin and along the Glen is unacceptable and we raise strong objection to this route. The Farr wind farm haul road would provide an alternative access to site 5 which would avoid all these problems. We urge SHE-T to implement its stated policy of listening to the concerns of communities and working to find acceptable solutions and therefore to plan to use the Farr wind farm haul road, NOT the public roads.

SHE-T requested comments on the transmission line routes for Tom nan Clach, Allt Duine and Glen Kyllachy wind farms although the only indicative routes given were for Tom nan Clach. The Scottish Government has still not made public the decision on Allt Duine and the Campaign reserves comment on this contentious development in a mapped wild land area until the decision is announced. Further information is required to allow informed comment on the grid connection for Glen Kyllachy and we assume this will be forthcoming in the near future.

None of the options proposed for Tom nan Clach would be without adverse visual and environmental impact. In order to protect views along the river, especially in the Streens area and further upstream along Strathdearn, route T2 would be the least damaging, crossing the Findhorn as close to the existing 132kV line as possible between Drumbain Farm and Balnagordannach

Save Strathdearn Campaign put forward reasoned arguments to support its objections to the 275kV line on the west side of the Garbole to Farr road and we welcome SHE-T’s agreement to run this line on the east side of the road. Likewise, although the “site 6” location we put forward for the substation would have been more acceptable there is general agreement that site 5 is preferable to the original site at Garbole. There are compelling reasons in favour of access to the substation via the Farr wind farm haul road and against the public road through Tomatin and along the Glen and we ask SHE-T to accept these for the sake of the community and visitors.

Yours sincerely

Pat Wells

Co-ordinator Save Strathdearn Campaign

e: info@savestrathdearn.com

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