Scottish Power Transmission's plans to reduce the visual impact of the upgraded Beauly Denny power line around Stirling must consider all options including partial undergrounding, Jim Mather said today.
The Energy Minister has asked Scottish Power Transmission (SPT) to engage with Stirling Council on its Stirling Visual Impact Mitigation Scheme and to consider unexplored options, including partial undergrounding of the main line.
The Scheme must be approved by Ministers before construction of the upgraded line can begin in the area.
Energy Minister Jim Mather said:
"The Beauly Denny upgrade is crucial for Scotland to harness, transmit and export our vast renewables potential. In approving the upgraded line last year, I put in place comprehensive conditions to protect communities and the environment and reduce as far as possible the visual impact of the line in Stirling.
"I said at the time that the key to ensuring that the development is delivered appropriately is ongoing engagement with local communities, their representatives and other key interests. The conditions require this and it is for Ministers to make the final decision on SPT's proposed Stirling Visual Impact Mitigation Scheme, following consultation with Stirling Council.
"The proposals that SPT have submitted to the Scottish Government were deemed unsatisfactory by Stirling Council during SPT's consultation last year. I have considered SPT's proposals and concluded that the formal process of consultation with Stirling Council cannot usefully begin. I have therefore asked SPT and Stirling Council, as a matter of urgency, to engage closely and consider the Scheme further, including any as yet unexplored options. These include options requested by Stirling Council for partial undergrounding of the main 400 kV line, undergrounding of the 132kV line from Fallin to Glenbervie and strengthening the existing mitigation proposals.
"To avoid any risk of delay to the development, I have recommended that a period of up to 60 days is taken to carry out the joint work and that a final submission is made by SPT of improved proposals by the end of June 2011. I expect closer joint working between SPT and the Council will result in a Scheme which strikes the best possible balance between the development and the legitimate concerns of communities in the Stirling area."
Under the Electricity Act, Ministers have no powers to insist on undergrounding the main line. The condition of the consent issued on January 5 2010 states that:
"neither the overhead transmission line or the towers carrying that line shall be installed or constructed in the area of Stirling Council until:
(a) the applicant has submitted to the Scottish Ministers for approval a scheme prepared in accordance with this condition setting out proposals to mitigate the visual impact of the 400kv line in the Stirling area ("the Stirling Visual Impact Mitigation Scheme"); and
(b) the Scottish Ministers have, after consultation with Stirling Council, approved the Stirling
Visual Impact Mitigation Scheme…"