Glen Etive 'Under Threat' from Hydro Schemes

Proposals to build seven hydro power schemes in Glen Etive are currently being considered by Highland Council. Campaigners have called on the council to ensure the wild and scenic quality of the glen is preserved.

Glen Etive from Ben Starav, 209 kb
Glen Etive from Ben Starav
© Dan Bailey

Each of the seven projects would involve new road construction, bridge-building and trench digging - in addition to which, a new three-wire overhead power line connection will be offered by SSE to the developer. Despite the impact on the much-loved glen, which is in a National Scenic Area, and a Wild Land Area, the total power output of the seven schemes combined would be marginal compared to a big wind farm.

Stuart Younie, Chief Executive Officer of Mountaineering Scotland, said: "We are challenging The Highland Council on its stewardship of Glen Etive and call for the planning department to defend this much-loved landscape."

Mountaineering Scotland see the proposals as a potential threat to the landscape quality of the glen. Mr Younie stressed that it was essential to look at the whole picture of development in Glen Etive rather than treating each application in isolation.

"Wild land is fragile and requires understanding of what can damage its qualities for generations to come, and it needs a commitment to protect those qualities. The Highland Council is now holding this future in its hands and we urge the Council to take the steps needed to look after it."

Stuart Younie added that figures show that small scale hydropower proposals have a 91% success rate with the Highland Council planners, "despite the increasing complaints of poorly constructed and restored access tracks, intake weir pipework and bare concrete facings."

"We have already written to The Highland Council planning department voicing our concerns about the legacy of intrusive tracks, and their reply confirmed they do not have the resources available to monitor every development, and instead rely on local people and other organisations to alert them to any alleged breaches of planning conditions.

"If developments are to be given permission in such sensitive areas that permission should only be given where proper monitoring and safeguards are in place.

"If either The Highland Council or the Scottish Government want to be taken at all seriously as stewards of some of Scotland's most iconic scenery they must up their game."

Davie Black, Access and Conservation Officer for Mountaineering Scotland said:

"SSE has recently been claiming green credentials by proposing to underground powerlines in the Nethy Bridge/Boat of Garten area. If it can be done there, then the criteria apply equally here in a National Scenic Area with its qualities of wild land."

Mountaineering Scotland say they support the Scottish Government's drive to increase renewable energy, but the organisation does not believe it has to be at the cost of Scotland's landscape, which makes a huge contribution to the economy as well as to health and wellbeing.

Davie Black said: "Small-scale hydropower schemes should be relatively benign forms of renewable energy generation, but do not come free from environmental costs. If not carefully designed the construction footprint and visual legacy in areas of natural beauty and wildness can greatly outweigh the power generation produced by each scheme.

"Two of the schemes were withdrawn due to concerns over their impacts, but have been recently resubmitted with modifications. Do the schemes that lie in the Wild Land Area really need a new track to just clean the intake weir? It should be simple enough to walk in from the existing track."

Comments on the Glen Etive proposals closed on 6th January 2019. The Highland Council is now considering whether to award planning approval to them.

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