Conservative Party Statement

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party for Dumfries & Galloway
Submission to SPEN’s D&G Infrastructure Reinforcement Project
We the undersigned elected representatives of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party for Dumfries and Galloway wish to strongly object to the D&G Strategic Reinforcement Project as put forward by S.P Energy Networks (SPEN).
We sympathise with the need to replace the existing infrastructure given its age, and we appreciate the requirement to ‘export’ the increasing amount of electricity that is being generated within our area. However, many people are still only just becoming aware of the impact that the proposal will have, and we believe that holding the consultation period over the summer has not been conducive to gathering the full breadth and depth of public opinion, despite the extra month that was granted for submissions to be made.
We remain unsatisfied at the lack of reasoning given for the rejection of alternative routes, and are not convinced by some of the reasoning that is given. For instance, we are of the opinion that the least disruptive means of achieving SPEN’s aims is to erect a new line in close proximity to the existing line and thereafter remove the existing infrastructure. Constructing a new line where one already exists would not have the same visual impact of a new line where none exists at all. However, SPEN has informed us that this would be impossible to do, due to the large areas of land along the existing corridor that have been ‘designated’ for a variety of reasons since the original lines were constructed. We believe that the fact that these areas were afforded their designated status despite the existence of power lines within them negates that argument.
We believe that the proposal for a sub-sea cable along the Solway, as proposed by some, is worthy of much greater consideration than it appears to have been given and would be widely supported. We appreciate that ‘converter stations’ would be required at each point the cable exits or enters the sea, but these can be effectively screened (as is the case at Auchencrosh) and there can be no doubt that a subsea cable would avoid the desecration of much of what is left of Dumfries and Galloway’s unspoilt natural environment, which SPEN’s proposals would bring about. Additionally, a subsea cable would have the benefit of being able to link with the subsea cable network that is already in existence, and which is likely to be expanded in future.
SPEN maintains that the preferred corridor has been identified as the most suitable in terms of “balancing the technical demands of the project with the needs of the people, the environment and the economy” – as stated in the document, Powering Your Future. We question the balance that the proposals achieve, in that the needs of the environment appear to have been side-lined in comparison with the other requirements. While we appreciate the desire to ‘future-proof’ energy supplies for generations to come, we must simultaneously ensure that we future-proof and safeguard our environmental integrity. 175 km of new pylons, most of which will be some 50% higher than anything currently in the Region, will not achieve that outcome.
The required balance between the needs of the people, the economy and the environment is not achieved by the current proposals, and the fact that the possibility of undergrounding is not mentioned at all within the proposal would suggest that environmental integrity or preservation is not in SPEN’s thinking – we believe that it should be.
The natural beauty of much of Dumfries and Galloway has already been heavily impacted by the construction of commercial wind farms, and several more will be constructed to take advantage of this new power line. The Region should not have to suffer the negative impact of many kilometres of large pylons where none currently exist as will be the case if SPEN’s proposals are not urgently reviewed.
In terms of the local economy we are already aware of one major capital investment, which will bring much needed high level employment to a rural part of the Region, which will not take place if the preferred corridor is rigidly adhered to. There is no telling what the impact of the proposed line on other investment within the Region would be, but it certainly could not be a positive one.
In summary, we object to SPEN’s proposal as documented in ‘Powering Your Future’. We understand the need for an upgrade to the infrastructure within the Region, but reject the solution that SPEN is proposing. We ask that SPEN suspends its proposed preferred corridor and enters discussions with all interested parties and stakeholders to identify a solution that safeguards our future energy supplies and enables our generated renewable output to access the National Grid, but which simultaneously protects and enhances what is left of the natural habitat and beauty of Dumfries and Galloway at the same time.
Alternatives to SPEN’s proposals do exist – they must now be rigorously explored.
Signed by:-
Rt Hon David Mundell. MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.
Rt Hon Alex Fergusson. MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries.
Iain Duncan MEP. Conservative UK Energy spokesman in Europe.
Cllr Graham Nicol. (Council Group Leader)
Cllr Ian Blake
Cllr Finlay Carson.
Cllr Gill Dykes.
Cllr Patsy Gilroy.
Cllr Ivor Hyslop.
Cllr Dennis Male.
Cllr Gail McGregor.