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A tiny community is taking on a Goliath-size battle to kill off an energy giant’s pylon plans before it ‘fries children’s brains’.
A monster-size pylon looms just 70ft away from Dalmally School say campaigners who want it removed and are hatching a plan to get thousands of energy customers on their side to stop other new pylons being built on their doorstep – the village already has 29.
No More Pylons in Dalmally says an existing pylon next to their school and currently owned by Scottish Power is the closest pylon in the UK to any primary school. They claim children’s health is being put at risk and have branded it ‘criminal’.
Campaign co-leader Julian Penney said: ‘Currently the pylons that straddle Dalmally Primary School take a very limited amount of electricity from the Cruachan power station to Glasgow. These pylons are owned by Scottish Power Renewables but Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) wants to connect to this network via the Dalmally sub station near the village of Stronmilchan which would add untold amounts of electricity through the existing pylons directly over the primary school, adding greatly to the electromagnetic radiation over and around it.’
Anger and health fears among Dalmally residents are heightened by 55 cancer cases already being linked to a street next to the school, under the shadow of other Scottish Power pylons above it and the village shop.
‘Cancer rates in Glen View are pretty alarming already. Imagine if the power overhead is increased. That’s the scary thing,’ said fellow campaigner Richard Scott at a rallying meeting in the village on Saturday.
In America, pylons are banned from being built within a three-mile radius of schools, said Mr Penney. ‘That says it all, so why is it okay for Dalmally? This community campaign is about saving our children and their future.’
Two years ago a study in the British Medical Journal looked at the health records of nearly 30,000 children with cancer, including 9,700 with leukaemia and a similarly-sized group of healthy children, said Mr Penney. That study found that those within 200 metres of power lines had a 70 per cent increase in their chance of developing leukaemia, compared with children living more than 600 metres from a power line, he added.
Campaigners in Dalmally want to see off the controversial plans by SSE’s network to put up 52 pylons as part of its North Argyll reinforcement project. The campaign has received the backing of MSP Michael Russell who has told the developer if it wants new power lines, then it should go underground. SSE Networks plans to put its final proposals to the Government in early 2020.
A SSE spokesperson said as a responsible developer, following feedback received from the local community, it remained fully committed to proactively exploring undergrounding options from the vicinity of the Duncan Ban monument to Dalmally switching station.
He added: ‘All proposed overhead transmission infrastructure for the North Argyll reinforcement project is a considerable distance away from local villages, with the closest property to the proposed overhead route alignment more than 100 metres away. We remain committed to keep the local community and other interested parties fully updated as the project development continues.’
Villagers suspect the pylon option will be selected because it would be cheaper, they say.
‘We are not just going to roll over and accept this,’ said Mr Penney when more than 45 people gathered at Dalmally Hall to send out a no-messing message to SSE that it has ‘a fight on its hands’.
‘We are going to up the ante until they say they are not doing this anymore,’ said Mr Penney.
The meeting was united in wanting to stop power developers putting any extra voltage over the local school and village.
Attendees also supported escalating the campaign, including exposing SSE’s network arm ‘for the way they operate’, ‘riding roughshod over small communities’, they said.
Villagers hope their action, some of which is being kept under wraps, will hit the power company hard by putting off shareholders and prompting SSE customers to swap suppliers in protest.
Just last week SSE lost 160,000 customers in three months and had to cut its full-year earnings forecast.
‘The public can read about what they want to do us and think that’s terrible and switch accounts. Let’s do as much damage so they back down,’ added Mr Penney urging people to keep spreading the word about their battle on social media.
‘Let’s give all these people with SSE accounts as much information about what this company is prepared to do us, frying our young people’s brains,’ he said.
The weekend’s meeting heard SSE’s upgrading plans ‘did not add up’ and that the company kept using the word ‘resilience’ to explain why its reinforcement project was needed.
Other not-so-secret plans being plotted by campaigners to foil more pylons being built include lining the A85 with posters to pull in support from passing motorists and tourists.
Scottish Power, parent company of Scottish Power Renewables, was working on a comment at the time of going to press.