Electricity is an essential part of our everyday lives. We all expect to have access to its benefits at the flick of a switch and we take its presence in our homes and workplaces for granted.
Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHE Transmission) and SP Energy Networks (SPEN) are responsible for the safe and reliable maintenance of the electricity transmission and distribution networks in Scotland, and operate a number of pre-existing overhead transmission lines through some of Scotland’s most protected and highly valued landscapes, including Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
Working in collaboration across Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, and independently in the Cairngorms National Park (SHE Transmission), as well as other qualifying landscapes, both SHE Transmission and SPEN are currently progressing the VISTA (Visual Impact of Scottish Transmission Assets) and Changing the VIEW (Visual Impact of Existing Wirescape) initiatives. This is in order to access a share of a £500 million fund, administered by energy regulator OFGEM, available to mitigate or positively enhance the visual impact of pre-existing transmission infrastructure located in the UKs nationally designated landscapes, including Scotland’s National Parks and National Scenic Areas (NSAs).
SHE Transmission and SPEN recognise the importance of engaging key stakeholders to ensure the best possible success of the projects, and have established number of Stakeholder Partnership Groups to draw upon local expertise and knowledge of these designated landscapes, as well as organisations with a national or regional interest in the protection, enhancement and use of Scotland’s unique landscapes.
The key objective of the projects is to identify the locations where pre-existing transmission infrastructure has the greatest level of impact, and where there is greatest opportunity for successful mitigation. In 2015, both companies commissioned LUC (Land Use Consultants) to undertake the assessment of landscape and visual impacts associated with the pre-existing transmission infrastructure located within both the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and the Cairngorms National Park, as well as a number of NSA’s where pre-existing infrastructure is located. Through this process, transmission infrastructure assets with the greatest perceived visual impacts were identified. Informed by stakeholder participation, through a series of consultation workshops and meetings, a number of potential mitigation proposals have been developed to address the most important visual impacts identified, and both companies are continuing to work closely with stakeholders as the projects progress.
SHE Transmission and SPEN are committed to the delivery of mitigation proposals which can remove, reduce of re-focus existing visual impacts, and which can complement any planned or ongoing initiatives being delivered across Scotland’s designated landscapes. Visual mitigation proposals which deliver potential opportunities for additional environmental, recreational, educational or social enhancement for residents and visitors to these areas will be encouraged, in order to maximise the benefits from the initiatives.
Mitigation proposals could include the introduction of screen planting around substations, the re-routeing or undergrounding of overhead lines, establishment of native woodland planting along overhead line corridors, and additional landscape enhancements linked to visual impacts, such as alterations to recreational paths or green networks.
The initiatives represent an exciting opportunity to contribute to the on going success of some of Scotland’s most valued and visited landscapes, and over the coming months SHE Transmission and SPEN will be developing more detailed mitigation proposals in collaboration with stakeholders, in advance of a first submission for funding to OFGEM later in 2017.
For opportunities to get involved at future consultation events as the proposals develop see the project websites: