Protest at new substation plans

The possibility of a new electricity substation on unique land at Challoch has galvanised residents in the quiet clachan to form a protest group.

Sottish Power had a meeting with the public in The McMillan Hall, Newton Stewart, last week as part of their consultation process ahead of beginning work to upgrade the 80-year old electricity infrastructure that services Galloway. The energy giant says a new substation and network of pylons are badly needed to provide “a safe, secure supply of electricity in Dumfries and Galloway and replace infrastructure that is approaching the end of its useful life”.

Scottish Power have identified five possible sites for the new substation, with one site, NS5, near the grade A listed Challoch Church, their “preferred siting”.

But Challoch residents, under their campaign name of NO TO NS5, argue that this site is “entirely unacceptable” as it is “a haven for wildlife, fish, invertebrates and lichens” and the ground is prone to flooding, even in the summer months.

They also argue that if planning for the new substation is approved it would open the door to other controversial developments such as windfarms, and that a 30km chain of new high voltage pylons needed to link the NS5 substation to the Glenlee substation near New Galloway could destroy an area of natural beauty and discourage tourists from coming to the area.

A spokesperson from SP Energy Networks said: “SP Energy Networks is carrying out in-depth community consultation on these proposals and we welcome all feedback as part of this process. The project is in the very early stages of development and the feedback we receive will help shape and inform our future plans.”

Scottish Power’s first round of consultation on the preferred corridor and preferred substation siting areas runs until midnight on July 24. They will then review the responses and publish a consultation feedback report detailing the views and representations received and how these have influenced their selection of a final corridor and siting areas.

By early 2016 further environmental and technical studies will also influence the preferred route and preferred substation sites proposal. SP Energy Networks will then carry out a second round of consultation before starting work on an environmental impact assessment.

There will be a third round of public consultation in 2017 about the detailed design of the new overhead line and substations. Planning applications will be lodged in 2018/ 2019 and Scottish Power want the new grid system operational by 2023.

See ‘Letters to the Editor’ on page 14.