SSEN accused of ‘green-washing’ pylon plans

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Energy giant SSEN has been accused of ‘green-washing at its worst’.

The claim was made during Glenorchy & Innishail Community Council’s Zoom meeting discussing plans for a new woodland between Cladich and Dalmally.

Planting of trees in the woodland near Achlian would be paid for by the power network company behind controversial plans for a new overhead line through the scenic area.

Proposals, at a pre-planning application stage, to create the new wood  over 245.24 hectares on the eastern shore of Loch Awe are coming from Scottish Woodlands Ltd.

Letters and a map from the company were sent out to stakeholders in December asking them to consider the project and to raise any issues that might be key to the woodland’s management so they could be appropriately addressed.

The proposal sets out that planting the new conifers – mainly Sitka spruce to fit in with producing a sustainable source of timber – ‘will be funded by SSE to replace the trees felled in surrounding properties for the creation of their new transmission line (LT000040).’

‘A new road will also be built by SSE to allow the construction of the transmission line,’ the letter says.

And open ground around the SSE transmission line will be landscaped, the letter says.

SSEN wanting an access track through the woodland came up on the agenda during discussions about the planting project.

Farmer Jon Strickland told this month’s community council meeting: ‘This is green-washing at its worst.’

The  Achlian planting would be to provide replacement planting for trees felled on SSEN’s Inveraray to Crossaig project, which is already in construction, but does not include the compensatory planting for the Creag Dhubh to Dalmally 275 kV project.

Compensatory planting for the Creag Dhubh to Dalmally 275 kV project will be delivered through other woodland creation planting schemes within the Argyll and Bute’s council area.

Long-running plans for more pylons have also triggered a No More Pylons Dalmally campaign.

Although community councillors are not opposed to the idea of the new woodland, they will be writing to Scottish Woodlands Ltd to make them ‘very aware’ there is a lot of opposition to SSEN’s pylons plan.

The energy provider has been preparing an Environmental Impact Assessment as part of its planning consent application to go before Scottish ministers soon.

Community councillor John Kerr told the meeting that would be happening ‘any minute’.

The assessment will include a detailed take on landscape impact, including effects on properties and it will also have visual representations of  SSEN’s proposals from key locations in the area.

‘As a community we are getting ready to react and are progressing well with that,’ said Mr Kerr.

The new overhead line would be at an average height of around 50m, not the 200m claimed by some opposers, and has been designed to minimise impacts on the landscape and avoid close proximity to people’s properties, says SSEN, stating the line would be around 1km from all properties in Dalmally village, with the closest property to the line in the wider area around 400m away.

Throughout the development of the project several options have been considered but SSEN says alternative routes proposed by the Dalmally community have had to be discounted because of ‘significant challenges’.

Speaking after the community council meeting, Mr Kerr told The Oban Times: ‘We are not Luddites. It is something that will happen but there are other routes. They (SSEN) are just choosing the cheapest possible option. There are several other options which they are discounting because of trumped up reasons.’

SSEN told The Oban Times it plans to submit its Section 37 planning consent next month and will let the community know at the time, including how they can make representation to Scottish ministers.

A spokesperson for SSEN Transmission said: ‘We remain committed to continue to work constructively and openly with the local community and wider stakeholders as we take forward this project of critical national importance to support the transition to net zero emissions.

‘This includes our commitment to deliver compensatory tree planting on all our projects, which will help support the creation of new woodland across the north of Scotland, including that being developed between Cladich and Dalmally which is being delivered as part of our Inveraray-Crossaig project which is in construction.’