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Rarely can a meeting of Tarbert and Skipness Community Council have seen such an attendance, and the attraction was clear.
Representatives of power company Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) were there to give a presentation on plans to site a new power transmission line close to the village.
The set of half a dozen or so towers would form just a small part of a project to upgrade the electricity transmission network and build a higher capacity 275 kV overhead line for 50 miles between Inveraray and Crossaig substation on the east Kintyre coast.
The route chosen has caused uproar in the village, with SSEN accused of failing to properly consult with people in the area. The primary concern of residents is that at least three of these huge towers, up to 62 metres (203 feet) high, would puncture the skyline, ruining Tarbert’s scenic value, particularly as boats enter the harbour from Loch Fyne, but also from the village’s iconic 13th century castle.
The community council meeting on Thursday November 14 offered an opportunity to hear about the plans first hand.
SSEN offered to come back in January to discuss planting trees to mitigate the towers’ appearance. There is also scope within the planning consent to move towers no more than 100 metres. The audience were, however, far from satisfied by this proposal.
‘You’ll never hide these towers with trees, and they will take years to grow,’ said one man.
Community council convener David McBride asked: ‘Can the line be changed?’
Paul McQuillan, SSEN environmental project manager, answered: ‘We set out the reasoning for our chosen route in the 2017 consultation document. We still think this alignment is the best one in view of the balance of constraints.’
SSEN considered three possible routes, taking into account the topography, proximity to homes, land zoned for development and environmental issues.
But the route submitted to Scottish Ministers for consent changed during 2017 from that originally proposed, taking a dog-leg from the golf course to take it nearer Tarbert village – and that has caused anger in the community.
Community councillor Bob Chicken said: ‘The view in this room is that the consultation process was flawed and the criteria you used doesn’t align with views of villagers.’
Mr McQuillan responded: ‘There were a number of times we could have had responses. The community has come to us quite late, after we had the consent. We’ve chosen the right route.’
A voice from the floor replied: ‘No, you haven’t,’ to a rumble of appreciation.
Argyll and Bute councillor Anne Horn said: ‘Everyone in this room knows the impact this will have on Tarbert. I am not going to hark back to the lack of communication, but this will affect Tarbert and tourism.’
Tarbert and Skipness Community Council formally, and unanimously, opposed the proposed pylon route.
Considering the community’s next move, David McBride said: ‘We need to gather all the evidence we can to apply pressure. We should also consider pursuing a judicial review.
‘I think we can demonstrate the SSEN consultation was flawed.’