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Ministers approve controversial power line

6 January 2010

Ministers have approved the controversial planning application for a line of giant pylons from Beauly to Denny in order to boost Scotland's renewable energy potential.

The decision, announced in the Parliament today, follows an 11 month public inquiry into the application by Scottish and Southern Energy.

More than 18,000 objections were received to the proposal, which will involve 600 pylons beng built, some more than 200 feet tall, over a 137 mile route which includes part of the Cairngorms National Park.

Campaigners against the plan, who included the John Muir Trust, Scotland before Pylons and Ramblers Scotland, had called for underground or subsea cables.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said the line was the most significant grid infrastructure project in a generation.

He told the Parliament: "Scotland's electricity network needs significant reinforcement to allow our vast renewables potential to be harnessed, transmitted and exported.

"Currently, we simply do not have the transmission capacity to carry the green energy which Scotland will generate over the coming years."

The new line could cost up to £400m, and will have to comply with a "detailed and comprehensive range of conditions", Mr Mather said. These include liaison groups and other experts to protect residents, the environment and the tourism and culture sectors from the impact of the line.

The decision will help boost the Scottish Government's target to meet 50% of Scotland's energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, while cutting carbon emissions by 42%, the most ambitious target set by any country.

Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, welcomed the decision, saying the potential environmental damage from climate change was much greater than any caused by the new line.

However Ramblers Scotland president Dennis Canavan described it as "an act of sheer vandalism", saying the project would destroy some of the most scenic countryside in Scotland.

Alan Simpson, partner in HBJ Gateley Wareing’s Energy and Climate Change Group, welcomed the decision, saying it was "essential if Scotland is to tap into the massive renewable energy resources from wind, wave and tidal power in the north of Scotland".

He added: “Scotland has the potential to become a major player in renewable energy, and this announcement will boost our credentials for global leadership in clean, green energy.”