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Barges carrying millions of tons of rock excavated in construction of what would be Scotland’s largest ever hydro power scheme could soon be seen along the Caledonian Canal in the Great Glen if it gets the go-ahead.
The Coire Glas project on the shore of Loch Lochy, proposed by energy supplier SSE, would also be the first new pumped storage scheme to be developed in the UK since 1974.
Using the Caledonian Canal to minimise disruption to the local community and the roads in the area is being considered, and in a joint statement last week, SSE and Scottish Canals said their partnership could lead to the revitalisation of the Caledonian Canal as a freight route, offering an option to future projects in the area to make use of the canal helping to further minimise traffic disruption in the area.
Catherine Topley, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, commented: ‘Thomas Telford’s iconic Caledonian Canal was built over 200 years ago to help stimulate the highland economy providing jobs, tourism benefits and the movement of freight, opening the Scottish highlands up to trade with the world.
‘Today the Caledonian Canal and the Great Glen continues to thrive as one of Scotland’s most visited tourist destinations and it is with great pleasure we enter today’s agreement with SSE to work together to bring another of the original uses of the Caledonian Canal back – water-based freight transport.
‘In partnership with SSE, we’ll undertake a detailed feasibility study and logistics modelling to determine the options available as we look to deliver more opportunities for the local economy and businesses to benefit.’
But the scheme has not without its share of controversy, with local communities in the area of the proposed scheme concerned about the amount of disruption that would be caused by its construction.
Earlier this year, local community councillors agreed to back the scheme but only on the proviso extensive planning conditions were attached to any consent.
At the July meeting of Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Achnacarry Community Council, members insisted on a number of conditions, one of which would be the requirement for assurances that loading of any barges on Loch Lochy would not create excessive noise and dust.
Coire Glas Project Manager Sean Kelly said: ‘As a project of national significance, we wanted to find a sustainable solution to the challenge of rock excavation at Coire Glas and its fitting that this solution would involve such an important part of Scotland’s heritage.
‘SSE has a long-standing relationship with Scottish Canals and we’re pleased to be able to formalise our shared interest further and hope that together we help rejuvenate the Caledonian Canal both for the project and for the future.’
Located in the north-west of Loch Lochy in the Great Glen, SSE was granted planning approval in 2013 for a 600MW pumped storage scheme at Coire Glas.
However, to maximise the potential benefit of this site, SSE submitted an application to the Scottish Government for consent to increase capacity of up to 1500MW in April this year.