GALLOWAY WITHOUT PYLONS has been set up to persuade Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) and the Scottish Government to protect Galloway from the giant pylons proposed in the Kendoon to Tongland 132kV Reinforcement Project. We want the section between Glenlee and Tongland buried underground.
The grid is made up of high-voltage transmission lines that transport power efficiently over long distances, and lower voltage lines that distribute power more locally. High-voltage lines generally run overhead on pylons, with some underground, or on the sea-bed if offshore. Lower-voltage lines are carried by smaller pylons and wooden poles, or often run underground in urban areas.
In Great Britain, National Grid operates the energy system and ensures the system is balanced; it does this by making sure the amount of electricity generated equals the amount of demand. As part of its role as energy regulator Ofgem oversees the overall grid and electricity system.
Ideal sites to generate renewable energy; including exposed windy areas, hilltops, by the coast, or out at sea, are often far away from existing grid infrastructure, which conventionally connects industry and cities. For this reason, there is a need for additional grid to reach out to emerging sites of renewable energy generation.
Galloway has experienced a rapid increase in the amount of electricity generated from wind farms to the extent that the existing transmission system can become overloaded at times. Furthermore, additional wind farms that are expected to be connected to the network will create an unsustainable situation resulting in increased constraint payments. (Money paid to wind farm owners for reducing output). Daily Telegraph article, click here. In view of the age of the existing transmission system SPEN say that an upgrade is the only option.
In 2015 Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) announced plans to modernise Dumfries and Galloway’s ageing electricity network and to expand its capacity. The Dumfries and Galloway Strategic Reinforcement Project included proposals for a new 400kV west to east overhead line from the South Ayrshire coast to Harker in Cumbria, four new high voltage substations and a new 132kV overhead line between Kendoon and Tongland. (KTR Project)
Following a cost-benefit analysis with National Grid (GB Transmission System Operator) the scope and scale of their original project was reduced. However, SPEN still need to build the new 132kV overhead lines to replace old infrastructure between Kendoon and Tongland. This will secure local electricity supplies and provide an increase in transmission capacity to connect more renewables (wind farms) to the line.
All the Project’s details can be viewed on SPEN’s website by clicking here.
Our opposition to the use of pylons is three-fold:
(1) Landscape Degradation– the 120 pylons would range from 25 metres to 35 metres in height creating a scar on our beautiful Galloway landscape
(2) Threats to Wildlife – birds are threatened by collisions with overhead wires, and our diverse Galloway wildlife affected by habitat destruction and disturbance
(3) Construction Disturbance – dangerous construction traffic will dominate narrow country roads and small villages for up to 4 years, and new access routes will have longer-term consequences on the local countryside.
It is obvious why we oppose the construction of giant pylons in Galloway. We live in an area of unspoilt natural beauty, which is the reason why many of us choose to live here and we have a duty to future generations to protect our main asset.
The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation shows that Dumfries and Galloway is home to some of the most deprived areas in Scotland. Councillor Colin Smyth, chair of the Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure (EII) committee said “The Council recognises that tourism probably holds the greatest economic potential of all industries in our beautiful but rural region”. Dumfries and Galloway’s tourist economy is worth £302 million each year and supports 7,000 local jobs. Our area is renowned for stunning natural scenery, uninterrupted views and a diverse array of flora and fauna and the Dumfries and Galloway Regional Tourism Strategy (click here) plans to increase this figure to £330 million by 2020 with a heavy emphasis on nature-based tourism.
SPEN’s overhead pylon route goes through or close to areas of outstanding beauty including, Queen’s Way, Stroan Loch, Raiders Road, Slogarie, Laurieston Forest, and Barstobrick. In England many new transmission lines are going underground and many existing pylons are being removed and the lines being buried underground. If this kind of environmental and economic sensitivity is good for England shouldn’t the same standards, if not better, apply to Galloway?
Would Dumfries and Galloway have won the “Holiday Destination of the Year 2016” as selected by the Countryfile Magazine (click here) if the KTR pylons had been in existence? The citation says, “Readers voted resoundingly for Dumfries and Galloway as winner of Holiday Destination of the Year due to its plentiful charms-tranquil forests, astonishing wildlife, wonderful beaches, lochs and streams, plus the original Dark Sky Park”
Threats to Wildlife
(a) Direct collisions between flying birds and the lines - bird strikes.
(b) Disturbance to birds during the installation of lines and pylons, including habitat destruction.
(c) Increased disturbance of habitats due to access roads which remain in place after installation.
(d) Severing of habitat corridors along which birds disperse or forage.
(e) Creation of habitats that attract wildlife in to the vicinity of lines – either directly or by attracting scavengers in to the results of bird strikes.
The pylons and overhead lines represent a threat to birds, and with raptors nesting along the proposed corridor, as well as most of Scotland’s nightjars, the development is wholly inappropriate. Birds of all kinds are killed as the result of collisions with overhead lines, with the most vulnerable species those active at night including nocturnal migrants, clumsy fliers, and species with aerial displays. Raptors such as goshawks, red kites and honey buzzards have aerial displays which may make them more vulnerable. A further problem is that birds of prey in particular seek out corridors and good open areas to hunt, including scavenging species which are attracted to casualties resulting from collisions.
We also oppose the development because it fails to identify the potential future of the forest as an important area for birds and other wildlife. In the Laurieston forest a once important ancient deciduous forest has been fragmented, but that is presently being reversed. The industrial forest has left the landscape devalued; there is good reason to believe that with the habitat improvements underway, the mixed woodland with stands of oak, lime and other native hardwoods will be in the near future an important bird area on a UK scale. Moreover the wildlife of the area is important for tourism, particularly with the Red Kite feeding station in view – the proposal to build an overhead power line through this area is wholly inappropriate. Read "Wildlife Report" by Dr Nancy Harrison and Mick Whitehouse.
Possibly worse than the visual impact of the pylons is the devastation that the construction traffic will cause on the Galloway’s narrow country roads. Not everyone will live in a home where they can see the pylons but most people will be affected by the construction traffic transporting, concrete, new road building materials, pylons, construction equipment, machinery and felled trees (approx. 440 acres of Forestry Commission land will have to be cleared). There will also be an impact from air pollution and noise even though the Scottish Ministers are content that it is acceptable to scope out the operational effects of traffic and transport. Transport Scotland in their response to the scoping opinion issued by the Scottish Ministers to SPEN stated "We note that noise and air quality/dust effects associated with temporary construction traffic are to be scoped out of the assessment. This is on the basis that the KTR Project will be accessed via a number of geographically distinct roads and access points. Transport Scotland is in agreement with this assumption"
These are the roads that will be affected and this upheaval will last for five years or more and the resulting damage could last for many more.
As well as the above roads, new tracks will be built to make access for the pylon sites. Some of the roads and existing access tracks may have to be strengthened, widened, and new passing places built which will be necessary to accommodate the construction traffic.
To see the access routes have a look at the Glenlee to Tongland Planning Application, Chapter 13, Traffic & Transport, click here which shows all the access routes and the sites of the pylons. It is a large document and may take a while to download.
We support the Scottish Government’s view that SPEN’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the KTR Project should consider alternative measures such as under grounding to “avoid, prevent or reduce and if possible offset the likely significant adverse landscape and visual effects where these have been identified through consultation feedback from affected communities”
Under grounding consultants have since been appointed by SPEN to look at the feasibility of undergrounding 5 sensitive areas of the proposed route and to look at a completely new route for under grounding the entire project.
The "Underground Cable Study" was published in July 2020, click here. SPEN's conclusion was that:
It is acknowledged by SPEN that the underground option is, in each case, technically feasible and, on balance, environmentally preferable having regard to landscape and visual as well as forestry impacts”.
Nevertheless, SPEN, who costed the underground route, have decided to go overground.
If any reader wants to contribute to our campaign by joining this action group (no fee), helping with the web site design, photographs, contributing to the sites content or any other idea to support our cause, please contact Paul Swift, tel: 01644 450352 or e-mail: email@example.com