At the end of the Beauly-Denny line is the Wester Balblair substation. This collects all the power from the north of Inverness and channels it south. After a sometimes bitter battle the Scottish Government approved the line with only peripheral mitigation arranged by Highland Council. More detailed mitigation agreed with SSE, local landowners and highland Council was over-ridden by the Scottish Ministers in a somewhat sleight of hand move. That would have moved the new substation back deeper within the quarry mitigating on visual impact and noise. As the transformers from Austria arrived and the monsters of steel and cable rose up, little did anyone know of the issues that were to be inflicted on the local community. Road movements have been far in excess of those predicted, articulated lorries misdirected by their satnavs along small rural byways. The improved signage promised by SSE has yet to arrive. A promised footpath as a safety issue is still to be constructed. Now the transformers are being commissioned and tested and the continuous noise has driven all locals to distraction. Fishermen on the local river, visitors for many years, are complaining of their spoilt holidays. Dog walks cut short and windows in houses kept closed with temperatures reaching 30°C. Residents of forty years standing have never heard anything like it. Unless a resolution is found these houses will be un-sellable. A local resident complains of being woken in the wee small hours and now feels absolutely shattered as his sleep has been ruined. Twenty four hours a day, it is un-remitting. It is not always worst in the same spot. It is obviously effected by the atmospheric conditions. SSE have promised a noise survey as has Highland Council but we suspect that the noise levels will be in compliance with standards. Problem is that standards were written for cities and industrial areas. The wording is BS4142:1997 Rating Industrial Noise Affecting Mixed Residential and Industrial Areas. Transposing that onto a quiet rural community is as bad as running the HS2 through Chipping Norton. Can, or will SSE be able to do anything to reduce the noise to pre expansion levels. I am not sure and neither are they. Or will this community just be seen as collateral damage in the interest of the urban energy user. The legacy for renewables in Scotland will never be an economically successful country but a divided and bitter population. The ambition of a minority to create a utopia of an independent Scotland based on a dream of ‘re-industrialisation’ of a rural agricultural and tourist economy with no industrial heritage. A Glaswegian kiss to the rest of Scotland.
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