WAPA public meeting, Alford Public Hall 8.00pm 23 January 2017
Approximately 100+ attendees (including Mike Rumbles MSP). Copies of WAPA’s first newsletter were distributed to all attendees.
Fergus McGhie introduced the meeting and started by asking how many present had been aware of SSE’s proposed new line before this public meeting. No hands shown. He then presented a series of slides to update the audience of the current status of SSE’s Blackhillock (Keith) to Kintore 400kV OHL project. The slides will be posted to the WAPA websites.
The meeting was then opened to the floor for questions, statements and ideas from those present.
Questions & Answers
The following questions were asked, and answers given where possible, and ideas & suggestions offered:
- Aberdeenshire Councillor John Latham asked what involvement local councils have in the project approval process. In reply, it was explained that the local councils can neither approve nor disapprove a proposed project but only register their opinion or objection. The Scottish Government (specifically the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy) makes the final decision on large national infrastructure proposals once a formal planning application has been submitted. Furthermore, local councillors have to be careful not to appear biased or offer definitive opinions when commenting on or during formal consultations by developers. Mike Rumbles, however, stated that he was not restricted when offering his opinions and would always speak out.
In answer to previous questions in the house, the Government had responded that they had no
influence over SSE’s proposals until a formal application is made.
- Rumbles further stated that he would “fight tooth and nail” to get SSE to move the project into the appropriate industrial Inverurie-Kintore corridor. He believes that SSE have located it in the southern corridor because of cost. Moving it will be best achieved if all political parties act to adopt a similar measure to that recently approved in the Welsh Assembly. He will seek to obtain cross-party support for a parliamentary debate for a preferment for undergrounding wherever practical.
- Per Arno offered two comments to the room: undergrounding would add an estimated 0.22p/KW to the average electricity bill; undergrounding HVDC cable was not that expensive particularly in the submarine environment and makes long term maintenance easier and cheaper. He then asked as to the best way to contact and make views known to Scottish politicians. Mr Rumbles replied that individual letters to all MSPs best as they are influenced by the volume of opinion. He also stated that petitions have their place in the parliamentary process, as MSPs will respond and raise issues in Holyrood. People could lodge a petition with the Scottish Public Petitions Office and if that office selects it for debate the appropriate Minister is obliged to listen and respond.
- A question was asked as to what chance was there of better success than the failed objection to the Beauly-Denny line. In reply, it was stated that the Beauly-Denny line was perceived by the Scottish Government to be of national strategic importance and thus overruled the objections in court and pushed the project through. However, it was noted that technology has advanced since then and there were better ways to do these large projects. Furthermore, the political scene is changing, with many more objections to large intrusive overhead power lines, the possible impact of Brexit, access to European money or lack of, and concerns over the reliability of wind power.
- It was stated that SSE design their transmission projects from their perspective, mainly cost, and how can we influence their design and environmental impact. Ultimately Ofgem will influence and can change a final project design.
- A question was asked as to whether there would be a template ‘objection’ letter on the WAPA website that local objectors could use. FMcG answered to the affirmative and also stressed that it was very important that the writer stated the words “I object…”. Another suggestion was to use the proforma on the ‘writetothem’ website (writetothem.com).
- There was a question as to whether the corridor selection process could be challenged; WAPA thinks possibly. However, it was noted that SSE had likely already spent considerable sums on their selected route corridor and would be confident that it will be accepted.
- It was suggested that WAPA contact local television production companies to create an information documentary using archived material to offer to the national media.
Lord Forbes then moved to close the meeting and thanked FMcG and Mr Rumbles for their contributions.
As a postscript to the formal meeting, Alex Anderson took the floor and announced that he would be conducting a public auction in order to raise funds for the WAPA campaign. The proposed date would be 6 May and it would be held in the Alford Public Hall. All donations of whatever kind would be welcome. (In view of the subsequent decision by National Grid in their latest Network Options Assessment report to ‘do not proceed’ with the proposed new Blackhillock to Kintore OHL, the public auction was deferred to a later more appropriate time subject to any reactivation of SSE’s project.)