Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Thousands opposed to power line

Detail from campaign tea towel
A tea towel was made for Cairngorms Revolt Against Pylons

Thousands of people have been united in their opposition to the Beauly to Denny overhead power line plan.

While many were not against the drive towards greater use of renewable energy, they were opposed to the size of the towers planned for the route.

Campaigners said the structures would spoil scenic mountainous landscapes and that alternatives to the line had not been considered properly.

Several new groups were set up to fight the project.

These included Cairngorms Revolt Against Pylons, Highlands Before Pylons, which was launched in Ullapool, and Stirling Before Pylons.

The Beauly-Denny Landscape Group comprises the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, John Muir Trust, Mountaineering Council of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Ramblers Scotland and the Scottish Wild Land Group.

Tens of thousands of people lodged official objections with the Scottish government ahead of the public inquiry.

Local authorities and Cairngorms National Park Authority were also opposed to the plans.

This overhead line will go right through the scenic mountainous heartland of Scotland
Ramblers Scotland

A campaign tea towel was produced by Cairngorms Revolt Against Pylons, websites were launched and signs opposing the scheme dotted the length of the A9, the road linking the north with central Scotland.

Alternatives to the overhead line were suggested, including a subsea cable down the west coast, burying sections of the line underground, upgrading the east coast overhead line or putting it under the A9.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) ruled out the various options as far too expensive. It said burying the cable would involve excavating large areas of land.

SSE also said the impact of constructing the overhead line on the environment had been carefully assessed.

It said its application to Scottish ministers was accompanied by an environmental statement which ran to more than 2,600 pages and was 1.17 million words long.

It covers land use, forestry, agriculture and sporting interests, geology and soils, hydrology, ecology, landscape, visual effects, cultural heritage and archaeology, tourism and recreation, electric and magnetic fields and noise.

Pylons in Olympic Park
Towers being removed from Olympic Park in London

Ramblers Scotland said the 11-month public inquiry on the scheme failed to consider fully the alternatives.

It pointed to SSE's proposals to link the Western Isles with the mainland by a subsea cable and then putting a line from Dundonnell on Little Loch Broom in Wester Ross to Beauly, near Inverness, underground.

The organisation said if such measures could be done in this instance, why not for the Beauly to Denny line.

Ramblers Scotland and other campaigners have also argued that there has been no clear evidence of how much renewable energy would eventually need to be carried by the new line.

A Ramblers Scotland spokesman said: "This overhead line will go right through the scenic mountainous heartland of Scotland."

He said the taller towers would be erected in the Corrieyairack Pass - which has an 18th Century military road built by General Wade - and in the remote area of Dundreggan.

Cairngorms Revolt Against Pylons, meanwhile, has highlighted the work done in London to take down 52 towers that dominated the Olympic Park in time for the 2012 Games.

The electricity pylons will be replaced by two four-mile long tunnels, which will carry the power lines underground at the site in Stratford, east London.

The Olympic Delivery Authority said the £250m move was vital for the permanent regeneration of the area.

The Cairngorms group argued that this could be done for the Beauly to Denny project.

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