School mum calls for pylons exclusion

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A mum-of-six is asking for government protection against the expanded use of Dalmally pylons.

Four of Lisa Beckett’s children are pupils at the village school which has the closest classroom to any pylon in the UK – just 60 metres away.

She wants her MSP Michael Russell to get categoric assurance from the Scottish Government that the pylon and lines near the school are  permanently excluded from any plans to develop the National Grid, blocking power companies from prioritising profits over the safety of children.

Mrs Beckett has written to Mr Russell because of controversial plans for 52 new pylons as part  SSE Networks’ North Argyll reinforcement project.

Her home in Glenview is just metres away from Scottish Power’s electricity pylons which, according to National Grid data, are only being used 35 hours a year, but she fears SSE’s plans, if they get the go ahead, could potentially re-route huge amounts of electricity through the sub-station at Stronmilchan which, she says, would put  the community and its children at ‘unacceptable risk’.

In most EU countries, pylons have to be sited at least two miles from a school and in the USA it is three miles. In the early 1970s and 80s, cancer rates around Dalmally were well above the national average for both adults and children, but suddenly in the early-to-mid 1990s they dropped significantly.

Campaigners say this correlates with Dinorwig Power Station in Wales coming on line in 1984 as the primary supplier of pumped-storage electricity to the National Grid, meaning electricity from the facility at Cruachan was required less and less.

Mrs Beckett and fellow campaigners believe the reduced amount of electricity has made it a far safer place for families to live and they wants MSP Mr Russell’s help to make sure it stays that way.

In her letter to Mr Russell Mrs Beckett said a member of No More Pylons in Dalmally campaign had spoken with two oncologists and both had expressed ‘huge concern’ that the pylons could once again be used to transmit large amounts of energy so close to a primary school.

‘They explained that children’s brains grow and develop mainly between the ages of seven to 15 and during this period are far more susceptible to damage from electro-magnetic radiation than at any other time of their lives,’ she said.

‘We would like categoric assurance from the Scottish Government that this pylon and the lines in close proximity to the school are permanently excluded from any forthcoming plans to develop the National Grid, and that in doing so, SSE, Scottish Power, Drax or any other power company cannot prioritise profits over the safety of our children.’

A ScottishPower Energy Networks spokesperson said the transmission line has been in service for over 50 years and there are no current plans for any changes to it.  ‘Like all electricity network operators, we operate under strict license conditions set out by the energy regulator Ofgem,’ said the spokesperson.

Mr Russell told The Oban Times he had raised the issue with three Scottish Government ministers but was also concerned about serious planning issues and about both current and future transmission lines near houses.

‘In that regard, the proposals for a second above ground line at Dalmally, and another very close to houses in Tarbert are unacceptable to the local communities, and I have made that very clear to the energy companies.   Those companies are making huge profits and they have to be prepared to listen to communities and act accordingly.

‘Energy issues are also dealt with at Westminster, so I am sure my colleague Brendan O’Hara MP will be taking Lisa’s concerns up there too.’

A SSE spokesperson said it plans to hold more consultations in the next few months to update the community and continues to explore undergrounding options from the vicinity of the Duncan Ban MacIntyre monument to Dalmally switching station.

They continued: ‘All proposed overhead transmission infrastructure for the North Argyll reinforcement project will be a minimum distance of 100m from local villages and properties in the area,’ he said.