[Submitted by Pat Wells]
SAVE STRATHDEARN CAMPAIGN
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN)
Application to extend weekday working hours and weekend working to include Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
Largely as a result of community support at the August community council meeting SSEN has been required to submit a Section 42 (S42) application to Highland Council in order to seek approval for extended working hours.
THIS WAS THE START OF A REQUIREMENT FOR SSEN TO FOLLOW DUE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS (in contrast to the letter which had been submitted originally by SSEN’s planner in the hope of a quick decision by Highland Council Planning Dept.)
In order for the proper democratic process to continue a good number of objections are required to ensure the application is discussed by the South Planning Cmte. (SPAC). If too few objections are received the application will simply be rubber-stamped for approval by the planning officer under delegated powers. The planning officer is Ken McCorquodale (who recommended approval of the original planning application for site 5). Four of us met with Mr McCorquodale last Wednesday (18 Oct.) and he indicated he was minded to approve the application unless there were good reasons put forward to the contrary.
The planning consent for the substation included a number of Conditions, including Condition 9 which detailed working hours. These were Mon. to Fri. 0700-1800 hrs. and Sat. 0800-1300 hrs.
SSEN’s S42 application requests these hours be altered to: weekdays -summer months 0700-1900 hrs. and winter months (end Oct. to end March) 0800-1800 hrs.
The weekend working hours are proposed as Saturday – summer months 0700-1700 and winter months 0800-1600 hrs. Sunday working - summer and winter months – 0800-1600 hrs.
SSEN claims the work on Sundays will involve “electrical fit out only” and would commence approx. May 2018 to Feb. 2019. It is claimed “The work does not require heavy vehicles and machinery “, “is a very quiet form of working with much of it taking place inside the substation building.”
Our response to this application depends on how much SSEN, its contractors and Highland Council planners can be trusted to honour what has been proposed. For the record SSEN contractors have already breached condition 9 but Highland Council decided to take no action!
What do you think about the proposal? The extended weekday hours may be acceptable to some people and some may feel Saturday afternoon working is also reasonable. However, a significant number of local people and others who visit the Glen are strongly opposed to Sunday working.
Reasons for objecting include: 1. religious reasons, 2. the need for respite from any noise and site activity for one day a week 3. use of the Glen, especially the popular Garbole area, by local people and visitors for quiet recreation at weekends, 4. a matter of principle is involved – SSEN gave an undertaking to the community that there would be no weekend working beyond 1300 hrs. on Saturdays. To renege on this undertaking begs the question ‘was this simply a sweetener to pacify the community but with every intention of seeking to extend hours once planning consent had been given?” 5. The reason given by SSEN for needing to work weekends is “to serve as a contingency against delays due to adverse weather.” Our view is that any developer working in hostile environments should know adverse weather is likely to cause delays and this should have been factored into the timescales at the outset. How many other Conditions is SSEN going to want to change – maybe access along the Glen because the wind farm haul road is snowbound …..??
If you wish to object and help continuation of the democratic process for this application the following are important points to make: (in addition to your personal reasons)
SSEN HAS FAILED TO SHOW THAT EXTENDED WEEKEND WORKING (or extended weekend and weekday working if you feel this to be the case) IS IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST. THE OPPOSITE IS THE CASE (examples given above – quiet recreation etc.)
THE REQUEST TO EXTEND WEEKEND WORKING (or extend weekday and weekend working hours) HAS BEEN MADE PURELY FOR COMMERCIAL REASONS. CONDITIONS ATTACHED TO PLANNING CONSENTS ARE INTENDED TO BE REASONABLE FOR THE DEVELOPER AND FOR THE PUBLIC. Sunday working in particular is not a reasonable request at this location. (SSEN’s offer to suspend working during Dalarossie church services is only one small concession.)
It is important to use the word “object” (to all or part of the proposal) in your representation. The reference for the application is: “Tomatin substation: Section 42 application ref. 17/04217/S42.”
UPDATE : If you are sending an objection to SSEN's proposal for extended working hours, including Sundays it's VERY IMPORTANT to put the Section 42 reference at the top of your email and include your name and address. If you have submitted an objection without the application reference and your name and address, it will not be counted so please resubmit with the necessary details. Here's the reference again :
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF REPRESENTATIONS IS THURSDAY 26 OCTOBER 2017
or post to: Mr Ken McCorquodale, The Highland Council, Planning and Development, Glenurquhart Rd. Inverness IV3 5NX
Thanks to those who came along to the site visit this morning - unfortunately most of the Cllrs who came today were not for interacting with the community, unlike those on the September visit.
I'm afraid the substation was approved by 19 votes to 4 with one abstention. Not a good result. No cognisance was given to the community's objection and all the issues raised by objectors were brushed aside.
It's disappointing to find so few are concerned about protection of the heritage and culture of the strath - but then the majority had never been here before and probably won't be here again.
Much was made by the planning officer and SSE of the wonderful screening the trees will provide. Unfortunately SSE has no control over the commercial woodland and it is likely to be felled at any time.
Visuals showing the powerlines carrying the 275kV line over the hill to the substation confirm the impact the monster pylons will have (up to 55.5m high).
Looking for some positives - at least this ugly complex will not be right beside the Garbole Bridge and construction traffic will come in via the Farr wind farm haul road. (Operational traffic will use the Glen road.)
SSE's response to the criticism of its poor environmental survey and failure to identify over 40 protected species found at site 5 by our ecologist, had the cheek to say they would use Dr Jones's report to inform their future survey work. Maybe they would like to contribute to his fee!
One Cllr. said SSE and locals should form a Community Liaison Group so that the community could have some influence on what happens. For what it's worth this has been added as a condition of planning approval.
It's all very disappointing - another beautiful, peaceful place in the Highlands despoiled by an industrial development. It was a done deal today - SSE desperate to get approval in order to start work and be up and running by 2018 and Highland Council not wanting to fight another appeal if the application was refused. Sadly, it appears democracy is dead in the water at present.
Thanks to everyone who has helped fight this development over the last three years. Time now for me to take a break.
Site visit by councillors. Come along on 8 November at 10.00am. Click "Read More" to view the poster. (UPDATE: Meeting time brought forward to 10.00am and route map added).