Warn­ing shot over hy­dro plan

The Oban Times - - News - MARK ENTWISTLE men­twistle@oban­times.co.uk

CON­SER­VA­TION ex­perts have fired a warn­ing shot over the po­ten­tial ef­fects a pro­posed hy­dro power scheme could have on the land­scape of one of the most un­spoilt ar­eas of the High­lands.

The cau­tion­ary note was sounded in Scot­tish Na­tional Her­itage's re­sponse to a re­quest from High­land Coun­cil for the na­tional body’s opin­ion on the planned project in­volv­ing eight mi­cro-hy­dro schemes on Glen Des­sary Es­tate.

SNH says the land­scape im­pacts have the po­ten­tial to raise is­sues of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance.

The 15,000-acre es­tate, which be­longs to Sir Pa­trick Grant, lies 30 miles west of Fort Wil­liam, at the head of re­mote Loch Arkaig.

Reached by a 17-mile sin­gle-track road along the side of Loch Arkaig, the es­tate is fa­mous for its deer and boar stalk­ing and fish­ing.

The area around Loch Arkaig is home to black grouse, pine marten, red deer, sea ea­gles, golden ea­gles, os­preys, red squir­rels and wild­cat.

A meet­ing is to be held in Ach­nacarry vil­lage hall next month to dis­cuss the pro­posed scheme which, if ap­proved by plan­ners, would see up to eight run- of-river hy­dro schemes gen­er­at­ing a max­i­mum 6.5MW of ca­pac­ity.

Each scheme would com­prise of at least one in­take, a buried pipe­line car­ry­ing wa­ter to a pow­er­house and an open, or buried, tail­race to re­turn wa­ter to the wa­ter­course. A new con­nec­tion would ex­port power to the Na­tional Grid, as well as pro­vide power to the Glen Des­sary Es­tate and end the es­tate's re­liance on diesel gen­er­a­tors.

Swin­don-based Innogy Re­new­ables Lt UK has pro­duced a re­port for High­land Coun­cil af­ter a year of river gaug­ing, en­vi­ron­men­tal sur­veys and ini­tial con­sul­ta­tion.

The re­port forms the de­vel­oper's writ­ten re­quest to High­land Coun­cil seek­ing the lat­ter's opin­ion on what in­for­ma­tion needs to be pro­vided in the En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact As­sess­ment (EIA) re­port that Innogy in­tends pre­par­ing for coun­cil plan­ners ahead of a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion be­ing sub­mit­ted.

The ap­pli­ca­tion sites fall within the de­fined Kin­lochhourn-Knoy­dart-Mo­rar Wild Land Area and the lo­cally des­ig­nated Strath­conon, Monar and Mullar­doch Spe­cial Land­scape Area. SNH says a de­vel­op­ment of this na­ture in this area raises is­sues which will re­quire care­ful as­sess­ment as part of the EIA process.

SNH South High­land op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer Cor­rina Mertens has told High­land Coun­cil that if it proved im­pos­si­ble to ad­e­quately ad­dress the im­pacts of the pro­posal on the Kin­lochhourn-Knoy­dart-Mo­rar Wild Land Area through de­sign and lay­out, it could lead to an ob­jec­tion from SNH.

‘Given the in­for­ma­tion pre­sented within the re­port, we con­sider the im­pacts have the po­ten­tial to raise is­sues of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance, which may lead us to ob­ject,’ said Ms Mertens.

‘At this stage it is not pos­si­ble for us to ad­vise on whether the pro­posal is likely to re­sult in sig­nif­i­cant ad­verse im­pacts on the wild land.

‘How­ever, we high­light this as a pos­si­bil­ity given the sen­si­tiv­i­ties of the lo­ca­tion.’

The is­sue also sur­faced at this month's meet­ing of Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Ach­nacarry Com­mu­nity Coun­cil.

Chair­man John Fother­ing­ham told fel­low coun­cil­lors it was an im­por­tant is­sue.

‘It is a very re­mote area, very wild coun­try and some of the most beau­ti­ful and iconic coun- try­side in Scot­land,’ he said. While the res­i­dents af­fected and the com­mu­nity coun­cil were broadly in favour of fur­ther in­vest­ment in re­new­able elec­tric­ity projects such as mi­cro hy­dro schemes, coun­cil­lors agreed they would want to seek guar­an­tees about the sym­pa­thetic re­in­state­ment of the land­scape and how the im­pact on this pris­tine wild land would be min­imised.

The im­pact of in­creased traf­fic and its ef­fect on res­i­dents and tourists would have to be eval­u­ated, as would the var­i­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

A meet­ing will be held with En­ergy Re­new­ables UK LTD at Ach­nacarry Vil­lage hall on Mon­day Septem­ber 13 at 7.30pm for res­i­dents and com­mu­nity coun­cil­lors.

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