Galloway Without Pylons (GWP), a local action group, are trying to protect a beautiful area of Dumfries and Galloway from being blighted by 118 giant pylons over 32.5 km between Glenlee and Tongland. The project proposed by Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN), are owned by the Spanish energy conglomerate Iberdrola, cuts through the Galloway Forest Park close to major tourist attractions such as the Queensway Crossing, Raiders Road, Loch Stroan, Otter Pool, Red Kite Trail, Kennick Burn (and the ancient beech avenue), the Bennan, Slogarie and Laurieston Forests and Barstobrick.
SPEN applied for a 132kV overhead pylon line (OHL) from Kendoon to Tongland. Dumfries and Galloway Council objected to their planning application so the application progressed to a public inquiry.
GWP wants the section between Glenlee and Tongland undergrounded and argue that the extra cost should be spent to preserve the environment, wildlife and the local tourist industry. SPEN state “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”.
Undergrounding takes place all over the world and has been done in the UK in many areas of outstanding natural beauty. We believe that Galloway Forest Park, the most visited outdoor attraction in Dumfries & Galloway should be awarded the extra funds that could be made available.
The Scottish Government has received over 900 objections and not a single representation of support.
GWP is supported by 23 Community Councils, Alister Jack M.P., Finlay Carson MSP, Emma Harper MSP, Colin Smyth MSP, Oliver Mundell MSP, the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, RSPB, Scottish Forestry and many other businesses and institutions.
The RSPB have stated that they have significant concerns about the potential collision risk for nightjars. 95% of the Scottish population of this protected species is to be found in Dumfries and Galloway. The RSPB also have concerns for raptors including, golden eagles, osprey, goshawks and red kites.
Many land mammals found near the OHL route are included in the Scottish Governments Bio Diversity List. Water voles, brown hares, otters, pine marten, red squirrels and a variety of bats are listed either for conservation action or where negative action should be avoided. The Bio Diversity list also includes the following reptiles/amphibians where negative action should be avoided. These are the common toad, great crested newt, palmate newt, slow worm, adder and common lizard. All are found in the area of the OHL and just to give one example, thousands of toads can be seen in late summer on forestry tracks in the area, tracks that will accommodate heavy construction vehicles for access to the pylon sites and quarries.
A Public Inquiry of this magnitude is complicated and SPEN will spend many thousands of pounds on legal assistance. It became obvious after experiencing the inquiry preliminary meetings that GWP, despite our massive support, were up against a juggernaut and that we desperately needed legal help. We found an expert planning/power generation consultant and a very experienced KC to help us at a very agreeable cost.
The Public Inquiry which lasted for 6 weeks ended on the 30th of November. This was a mammoth undertaking for everyone concerned and our two “experts” were brilliant and worked incredibly hard in preparation for the Inquiry, during the Inquiry and since preparing their final submissions to the Scottish Government. They were involved with much more work than anticipated partly because Dumfries & Galloway Council, who objected to the application which triggered the Public Inquiry, withdrew 7 days before the Inquiry started. The council's legal bill preparing for the Inquiry was almost £70,000.
GWP was originally tasked to submit their closing submission by Jan 9th 2023 but the Scottish Government, since the Inquiry finished on 30th November, published 4 major reports and stated that “Parties are invited to provide comments on how, if at all, this document affects their case to the inquiry and its relevance to this proposal.”
The publications are (a) National Policy Framework 4, (b) Scottish Government Onshore Wind Policy Statement 2022, (c) Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, and (d) Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to 2045.
The result was another Hearing Session which took place on 29th March 2023.
GWP submitted their 20 page closing submission on the 10th May.
SPEN submitted their 315 page closing submission on 20th June, 4 weeks late.
GWP's submission was published on the DPEA website on the 11th May.
SPEN's closing submission hasn't been published but the DPEA published this instead on the 4th July.
GWP goes further than the Scottish Government and believes that SPEN’s submission has caused great offence. Their submission is arrogant, dismissive of the local community, contains false information and is an attempted character assassination of the two “experts” that were employed to represent GWP. The local community raised £24,000 to pay for our KC and technical expert so you can imagine how angry GWP members are when they read this unpleasant submission from SPEN.
Our technical expert was Dr Chris Ford, BA (Hons), MBA, MSc. in Renewable Energy, PHD in Civil & Environmental Engineering. He was absolutely superb at the Inquiry and it was obvious from the first time I met him that he is indeed an expert on the “spatial dimension of energy systems”. I am currently working on a report that will highlight those sections of SPEN’s submission that attempts to denigrate the evidence of Dr Ford and others. There are many!
The Galloway News believes this is a major story and have written to both the DPEA and SPEN for their comments on this extraordinary situation.
All the documentation for the application can be seen here on the DPEA website.