Better pylon route proposed as Tarbert appeals

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There is no reason why a power company cannot change the controversial siting of pylons past picturesque Tarbert, say community councillors.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has already started work on the northern section of the new Inveraray to Crossaig line upgrade.

At the forefront of a campaign to change the position of around half a dozen 200-foot pylons near West Loch Tarbert is Tarbert and Skipness Community Council.

The project was granted planning consent by the Scottish Government in July 2019, but the approved route ran closer to the village than previously understood – which campaigners say will ruin the village skyline.

SSEN maintains that there is no mechanism to change the consent, though it can alter the tower positions within the limit of deviation of 100m for each tower.

The community council has  submitted a letter of appeal to the Scottish Government Energy Consents Unit, and has also complained to SSEN over a lack of transparency in the community engagement process.

A series of consultation meetings had been held after plans for the project were unveiled in 2014, but the amended Tarbert section did not come to light until September 2017 at a consultation event attended by just 11 people.

The community council admits the route change was missed, but maintains there was an expectation of better quality information from SSEN.

Crucially, community councillors claim that an alternative route preferred by SSEN itself on technical grounds – known as route three – can now be reconsidered.

Route three was rejected due to an area of ground being earmarked for housing. The latest Argyll and Bute local development plan, however, no longer shows this area designated for development.

In its appeal the community council proposes revisiting option three, thereby ‘removing the pylons from the view of the bulk of the important areas of the village, reducing the length of the line and, perhaps, reducing the construction and maintenance costs’

A spokesperson for SSEN Transmission said: ‘We are committed to continue working closely with the local community, landowners and other stakeholders as part of the development of our landscape mitigation plan and as part of this, will do all we can to try and minimise the visual impact in the Tarbert area.’

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell told the Argyllshire Advertiser: ‘I am strongly of the view that the line chosen is the wrong one and that the fact that there were clear mistakes on both sides in the consultation means a compromise is necessary.

‘I do not accept that SSE has the right to ride roughshod over community views and damage the landscape and the appearance of the village.’