Energy firm says Cow Hill tree clearing being done ‘sensitively’

Brian Murphy, whose home looks on to Cow Hill, asked for tree cutting work to be suspended during the bird nesting season. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, NO F20 Cow Hill tree cutting 03

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Energy provider SSEN says it is carrying out essential tree felling works in the Cow Hill area of Fort William are carried out sensitively and with minimal impact to local wildlife.

Local Alma Road resident Brian Murphy had complained to the electricity company recently.

Mr Murphy told the company he had no issues with the company clearing brush and small trees that could eventually be large enough to cause problems for nearby overhead power lines.

‘I have no problem with that aspect of the work, I know it is necessary in order to protect the power lines from falling trees in the future. However, I would like to point out that we are right in the middle of the nesting season. The area in question is a habitat for many species of wild birds and other creatures such as roe deer for example,’ added Mr Murphy.

Mr Murphy said around half-a-dozen SSEN workers using chainsaws had been cutting trees, making a lot of noise and disturbance at a very critical time for nesting birds.

He added: ‘I would point out that the network of paths on the Cow Hill provide a very valuable resource for people to walk and try to find some peace and tranquillity in what is a very difficult time for many of us because of COVID-19.

‘This is work which should not be done at this time of year, and I am asking you to please stop it as soon as possible. To my mind it is work which should be always be carried out in the winter months.’

Asked to respond, an SSEN spokesperson told the Lochaber Times: ‘As distribution operator in the north of Scotland it is our role to maintain the safety and security of our networks while ensuring we keep the power flowing, doing everything we can to minimise the risk of power cuts for our customers.

‘Trees and other vegetation coming into contact with power lines can be a safety concern as well as a cause of power cuts so it is vital that we do everything we can to minimise this risk.

‘We are currently undertaking a tree-cutting programme to clear trees and vegetation away from approximately 5km of overhead line outside Fort William; these lines are an integral part of the electricity network supplying hundreds of customers in the Fort William and the Glen Nevis area.

‘We have been working closely with statutory bodies and local land owners to ensure that these essential works are carried out sensitively and with minimal impact to local wildlife in the surrounding area.’