• Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) are proposing to substantially upgrade the high voltage electricity transmission infrastructure by constructing a new 400kV line connecting from Auchencrosh on the Ayrshire coast to Harker, in the north of Cumbria. SPEN state that this is needed to replace the ageing transmission infrastructure within D&G and also to provide capacity and connection to national distribution network for renewable electricity generation. The existing 132kV lines are up to 80 years old and approaching capacity now.
• SPEN made a presentation of the project to a Members seminar which was held on 5 June.
• This was arranged to dovetail with the first stage of public consultation on the project, which was launched by SPEN the following week. Following concerns expressed about the timescale of the consultation at this stage, SPEN agreed to extend the period to the end of August.
• The first stage of public consultation is in connection with identified route corridors, preferred substation siting areas and potential removal of overhead lines in some areas.
• The next stage of public consultation is in connection with the preferred route, which SPEN will work up once the first consultation results are known. This will happen in early 2016.
• During 2017 there will be a further round of public consultation on the actual detailed proposals including the detailed design of the overhead lines and associated sub stations.
• The formal statutory consents process will not start until 2018, when the formal pre- application consultation will be held. The actual application to Scottish Government under S.37 of the Energy Act is not scheduled until early 2019.
• Details of economic impact would form part of the socio economic part of the Environmental Impact Assessment which SPEN are required to prepare and submit to accompany their application. This would be subject to consultation later in the process leading up to their formal application.
Dumfries and Galloway position / policy / strategy:
• The Council will be statutory consultees on the S.37 application and will be required to give a formal response to the detailed proposals at that time.
• As this project features in National Planning Framework 3 it will be classed as a “National” proposal in terms of the hierarchy of planning proposals (ie Local, Major and National). As such, it would be a requirement for the formal decision of the Council in responding to the S.37 consultation to be taken by full Council.
• Early advice to Members therefore has been to exercise caution in expressing publicly any view which could be interpreted as pre determining the Councils position in advance of the full details of the project being known and formally considered. However, expressing individual views about the general principles of the project may not create a governance issue, a briefing note to all Members is currently being prepared on this subject.
Next Steps/Other Comments:
• The next stage of public consultation will be in early 2016 once SPEN have drawn up a preferred route.
• It may be appropriate for the Council to consider making a response to that proposal once the details are known. The Council’s views would most likely carry some weight at that stage as the potential is for us to trigger a public inquiry should we later decide to formally object.