Monday, April 20, 2009

Ramblers Scotland in legal action threat over power line

Some of the best bits of Scotland, so they say, are to be cut in two by a monstrous power line, but alas perhaps not, as Ramblers Scotland and others might just step in with a legal challenge.

The Scotsman reports :

Power-line objectors threaten legal fight

Published Date: 20 April 2009
By Jenny Haworth
Environment correspondent

PROTESTERS fighting plans for a new power line that would cut through some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland have threatened to take the government to court if the proposals are approved.

Dennis Canavan, president of Ramblers Scotland, believes they could have a case for a legal challenge against the Beauly to Denny transmission line on the basis that the public inquiry process was flawed.

A decision on the controversial power line, which has been planned since 2005, is expected later this year. A legal challenge could further delay work starting on the new line.

The proposal has divided opinion, with energy groups arguing the line is crucial to enable further development of renewable energy in Scotland.

However, campaigners and local communities that would be affected by the lines believe it could damage some of the most beautiful areas of Scotland.

Mr Canavan, a former independent MSP, told The Scotsman: "I think the inquiry was flawed because the reporters would not allow evidence on alternative routes to the Beauly-Denny proposal, and there are viable alternatives that should be given very serious consideration.

"That could be subject to legal challenge. I don't understand why the inquiry reporters did not allow that evidence to be taken on board and fully examined."

He believes alternatives that should have been considered include upgrading the existing east coast transmission line, which would be closer to the proposed sites of new wind farms. Another option would be to use a network of sub-sea cables down the east coast.

He added: "Technically I think (a legal challenge] is possible on the grounds that the inquiry was flawed and there was no opportunity for the presentation of alternatives to the proposed route."

There have been more than 18,000 objections to the proposals, which would see about 600 pylons erected, each about 200 feet high.

The 400,000-volt power line would replace the existing 132,000 volt line that stretches from Beauly, west of Inverness, to Denny, west of Falkirk.

A £10 million public inquiry has heard about the merits and downsides of the 137-mile line, which would cost £350 million.

It is opposed by the National Trust for Scotland, the John Muir Trust, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the Cairngorms National Park Authority, among others.

However, energy groups have argued that the new transmission line is essential in order to meet renewable energy targets.

Half of Scotland's electricity must be provided from renewable sources by 2020, but more than 115 Scottish renewable schemes are currently waiting in a queue to plug into the grid before they can transmit their electricity.

A report on the plans was handed to ministers in February, and a decision is expected in the summer

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