Power company says it will listen to public

A public consultation on SP Energy Networks’ comtroversial proposals to upgrade the electricity network in Dumfries and Galloway came to an end this week.

Now project staff on the Dumfries and Galloway Strategic Reinforcement Project will start the task of analysing every single one of the more than 1,500 forms, letters and emails they have received from interested parties.

A detailed consultation report will be published on the project website www.spendgsr.co.uk later this year.

SP Energy Networks’ project manager for the scheme Colin Brown said that, although the scheme was essential to modernise and upgrade Dumfries and Galloway’s ageing and under-sized electricity transmission network, the views of local people were critical.

The first round of consultation asked people’s views of the broad corridor of land the firm thinks might be best for a possible new overhead electricity line between Auchencrosh, on the South Ayrshire coast, and Harker, near Carlisle, in Cumbria. Broad potential siting areas for four new substations at Auchencrosh, Newton Stewart, Glenlee and Dumfries were also part of the consultation.

“Even though it’s at a very early stage, this is a big project and we need to know what people think.

“The response has been very encouraging. After sending out more than 14,000 leaflets and the same number of letters, we have met more than 700 people face-to-face at ten public exhibitions between Barrhill and Longtown, plus many more who have attended community council meetings.

“To make sure we develop the scheme with local concerns and ideas firmly in mind, every word of the feedback we have received now needs to be scrutinised and we will respond as part of the consultation feedback report later this year,” he said.

The consultation, which started on June 8, was extended by five weeks at the request of local people to allow more time for them to comment. It is just the first of a number of opportunities people will get to influence the Dumfries and Galloway Strategic Reinforcement Project as it progresses.

The responses received will help SP Energy Networks decide which areas should go forward to the next stage of the routeing process.

“Depending on the outcome of this, as well as further technical and environmental studies, the company hopes to carry out a second round of consultation into a number of preferred line routes and substation sites next year.

“Until we’ve analysed the consultation responses and carried out more studies we don’t know if the areas we’ve identified are the right ones to take forward. It has prompted a lot of debate but we have an open mind and I am looking forward to finding out what people have told us,” added Colin.

Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for South Scotland, has written to Scottish Power Energy Networks urging the management to listen to the views of communities.

Mr Hume said: “In the correspondence I’ve been receiving from residents, there seems to be a few common concerns so far: the scale and size of the proposal on parts of land where no pylons have been before; a large part of the proposal appears not to be of direct benefit to local communities; and some people are saying they were not aware of the proposal and question the consultation process.

“Whilst I can see that there will be benefits in upgrading parts of the existing line as part of this project and I very much welcome this, there are local concerns that large parts of the Galloway countryside will see the installation of pylons that historically have never been there. I do share some of those concerns, particularly as there is a suggestion that the company has not considered other possible routing options.”