The Angry Corrie 59: Oct-Dec 2003


Cashflow: the making of money from hydro schemes

image from TAC59

WHAT LURKS behind the infamous Invervar gate leading to the Glen Lyon Munros? An irate landowner upset at the disruption you're going to cause to the wildlife and stalking by walking over the hills? Or a team of construction workers digging and blasting between 2km and 3km of pipeline for a new power station to be built next to the path? If North Chesthill Estate gets its way then it might just be the latter.

North Chesthill supports plans by Innogy Hydro to build a 1.1 megawatt power station adjacent to the burn at Invervar. Water would be collected using pipelines from three weirs to be constructed in the corries above. An access road would be made up into the corries. Construction could last up to a year.

The round of the four Glen Lyon Munros has been a popular outing for decades, and TAC readers will know of the long-running access wrangles and the erection of the infamous gate (eg see TAC42, p14 and TAC44, p8). It appears that walking up the hill is regarded as disruptive by the estate, whereas blasting a pipeline and placing a power station there is not. Could the estate's view have been influenced by the fact that they will derive an income from this for the next 25 years (after which time the ownership passes to them)?

Even the most avid supporter of green energy must question the placement of such a scheme in the centre of a national scenic area, with weirs to be constructed within metres of the Site of Special Scientific Interest on the south side of Meall a'Bharr. Locally, at Invervar, a community contribution to energy production already takes place with three properties having photovoltaic roof tiles. Like the Shieldaig hydro scheme (see TAC58, p2), the Invervar proposals are inappropriate for the proposed location.

Who knows what would happen with access during the construction period. The current track would have to be widened and structured to cope with lorries and other construction traffic. How walkers would access the Munros during this time is a mystery - and unsurprisingly this doesn't seem to be on the agenda for either Innogy or the estate.

The estate says it needs the income from the scheme to employ someone as a gamekeeper and handyman - and any increase in local employment is laudable. But the estate owner, Alastair Riddell, has written (in the community magazine Comment, published mid-August) that he doesn't want "more walking, camping and canoeing from which the estate gains no benefit". That's why he would rather have the hydro: it brings in the money and - possibly - keeps out the people.

A number of residents at Invervar and in Glen Lyon intend to oppose this scheme. The current status is that it is in the advanced stages of costing by Innogy, but a formal application for planning permission (to the Scottish executive) has not yet been made. If the scheme is deemed viable by Innogy - which means if it is reckoned to make a profit for them and for the landowner - then they will make a formal application.

If you feel such a scheme is inappropriate for this location and would like to support our opposition, then contact me at hydro@cwsoft.demon.co.uk and I will keep you updated.

Colin Wilson

Ed. - Another hydro proposal threatening to sneak in on the quiet concerns the area to the southeast of Glen Doe in the Monadhliath, where a joint proposal by Glendoe and Garrogie estates has been in progress for the past couple of years. If passed (and the planning application was published in May 2003), this would see Scottish and Southern Energy dam and flood an extensive flattish area at about 600m in upper Glen Tarff, above the craggy Garbh Choire. Around 210ha of land would be required during the construction process, with just over 160ha being lost permanently. The dam, if built, would stretch for 1km from NH449036 on Landranger 34 to NH457029, with the reservoir itself extending 2km eastwards to around NH470036. (Any further north and there would be overspill problems down Glen Brein.) The main water tunnel would run beneath Glen Doe to a power station at the south end of Loch Ness, while an intake tunnel/aqueduct/pipeline network would extend 10km eastwards across the Monadhliath plateau. New tracks would be built on this side of the scheme (eg the Allt Odhar path above Sronlarig Lodge would be upgraded), while the existing Glen Doe track in the west would be extended to the dam.

This is an exceptionally quiet bit of hill country: few walkers stray east of Carn a'Chuilinn, the Corbett 4km to the west (and currently almost always approached from the west or the north). The unfashionable boggy flatness of the to-be-flooded area could be used as an argument for putting it to commercial use, but conversely the area could be seen as valuable, in landscape and wildlife terms, precisely because of its emptiness and "unattractiveness".

If built, and built carefully, the scheme might be relatively unobtrusive as these things go - becoming just an additional body of water in an area that already has numerous natural lochs. Then again it could be a major and very obvious human intrusion into a particularly unspoilt bit of the Highlands. Unlike the bullish North Chesthill estate, the people at Glendoe do seem to be trying to win a few hearts and minds - eg the ancient walker-discouragement sign at the start of the main approach track leading from the B862 has recently been removed. So that's good; whether the same can be said of the proposed hydro scheme is less clear. (Note that the cluster of high lochans immediately east of Carn a'Chuilinn isn't directly affected, being protected under European legislation, but noise testing to ascertain the effect of the construction racket on bird colonies is to begin at the end of October.)

Glendoe Hydro Scheme Environment Statement - Non Technical Summary was published in April 2003 by ASH Design and Assessment: 21 Gordon St, Glasgow G1 3PL, 0141 227 3388.

Elsewhere in the same general area, Dunmaglass estate on the south side of Loch Ness (owned by Bahamas-based billionaire Jack Hayward, chairman of Premiership whipping boys Wolverhampton Wanderers) might soon be home to around 50 wind turbines. A planning proposal is expected later this year, despite lingering local resentment over an earlier Dunmaglass venture into the wind-energy market. In the early 1990s the estate erected - without planning permission - the now-disused 35m-high turbine on Beinn Dubhcharaidh near Loch Mhor, a very visible eyesore in an otherwise lovely landscape. The latest Dunmaglass proposal involves Renewable Energy Systems, part of the McAlpine Group, and RES development manager Ray Hunter has been quoted as saying (in the Press and Journal, 7 July 2003): "I'd argue that the Monadhliaths are the least valuable of all the mountain ranges in Scotland. They don't have the landscape value of the Torridons, the Grampians or the Cairngorms."

Re Shieldaig, on 11 Sept Highland Council voted (32 to 27) not to reject the proposal, against the advice of its own director of planning. The matter now rests with the Scottish executive. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage are both against the plan. Contact the energy consents depart of the Scottish executive via lesley. thomson@scotland.gsi.gov.uk


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