Proposed Tarbert pylons – a plea from history

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Plans by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks to erect new, taller pylons across the Tarbert isthmus have sparked anger among residents who, among other concerns, fear the village skyline and beauty will be ruined by the structures.
The pylons comprise a short section of a huge project to upgrade the existing transmission network between Inveraray and Crossaig, near Skipness.
In the article below, Tarbert man Ian MacIntyre reminds us of Tarbert’s significant role in Scotland’s past, and how its future might be impacted by the proposed new pylons:

For more than 1,000 years Tarbert has played an important part in Scottish history.

The oldest financial records known to exist in Scotland record the work, started in 1325 and carried out by Robert the Bruce, in rebuilding an earlier castle at Tarbert. Two men were paid to accompany Patrick the Fool on his journey from England to provide entertainment for the King and his guests while residing at Tarbert.

Also recorded is a figure for ‘making a suit for the King at Tarbert’.  Bruce visited Tarbert on many occasions. His final visit was in the year of his death.

Tarbert is believed to have been one of the earliest Royal Burghs in Argyll. An early reference as such was made in 1328. It is also said to have had one of the earliest paved streets in Scotland.

King James IV also had a close connection with Tarbert. The addition of the ‘keep’ to the castle, part of which still stands today, was constructed at his direction. Whilst this work was underway, James summoned parliament to meet him here to discuss matters local to the area. This meeting took place on July 24 1494.

Over the years, many travellers of note have passed this way and commented on Tarbert and its scenic surroundings.

In 1772 Thomas Pennant arrived by sea at East Loch Tarbert and described the scenery as ‘picturesque’.

CGS Teighnmouth (Lord) passed through the Kyles of Bute in 1827 and commented that ‘it offers no scenery worthy of notice’. He continued to note that ‘the romantic little harbour of East Loch Tarbert – with the overhanging keep of its ruined castle – form a scene singularly picturesque’. He became a frequent visitor to Tarbert.

In 1843 Lord Cockburn (circuit judge) described the Kyles as ‘rugged and picturesque’ but, arriving at his destination, exclaimed: ‘But Tarbert! East Tarbert! How is it that I had never even heard of that curious little bay. There it lay, calm and silvery, like a scene from a theatre. A striking and beautiful spot.’

In the modern era, many thousands of tourists visit Tarbert each year. Since the beginning of 2019, more than 30,000 visitors have been recorded as accessing the Tarbert Castle site.

Tarbert Harbour Authority manages one of the largest marinas in the Clyde area. Around 130 resident berth holders and more than 1,000 visiting leisure craft during the sailing season add considerably to the numbers who arrive at Tarbert and appreciate the attractive surroundings.

The present plans for the power line, however, as exhibited by SSEN, will present a view on entering the harbour despoiled by a line of monster pylons.

The current proposal suggests that four or five of the 200-foot pylons will dominate the western skyline. The visual impact of this scheme as presently proposed will have a negative effect on the experience of everyone who lives in, or visits, Tarbert.

Tarbert was designated as a conservation area in the 1970s. Argyll and Bute Council imposes restrictions on works likely to have a visual impact on its appearance.

But the council has apparently raised no objection to this visually damaging proposal. Similarly, Visit Scotland is reported as having raised no objection as well as closing all its tourist offices in Cowal, Mid Argyll and Kintyre in the past year.

With the recent decline in the Loch Fyne fishing industry, Tarbert is increasingly dependent on tourism to provide employment.

Other issues include the sterilisation of ground under the proposed line of overhead wiring. Opportunities to extend social housing will be restricted under the present plan.

OFGEM administers a £5 million fund set up to mitigate the impact of electricity infrastructure on national parks and ‘scenic areas’.

Tarbert, along with its harbour and the isthmus linking it with West Loch Tarbert, without doubt, constitutes a ‘scenic area’.

Reconsideration of this proposal is essential.