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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 13:44 GMT
Pylon network inquiry under way
Public inquiry
The first part of the inquiry is taking place in Perth
A public inquiry into plans for a 137-mile power line through the Scottish countryside has begun.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) said it wants to replace an existing line between Beauly, near Inverness, and Denny, near Stirling.

The inquiry, which began in Perth, follows years of controversy over the proposals for about 600 pylons, which would be up to 65m tall.

SSE said it believed the plans would eventually be approved by ministers.

The power company said the 320m development was needed for the reliable transmission of electricity from renewable sources from the north of Scotland, which would be enough to power one million homes.

However, the proposals, which would see pylons erected in some of Scotland's most picturesque locations, including the Cairngorms National Park and the Southern Highlands, have attracted fierce opposition since being announced in 2005.

More than 17,000 objections have been received by the Scottish Executive so far, including concerns raised by local authorities through which the power line would pass, as well as conservation body Scottish Natural Heritage.

The Highlands have some of the most beautiful scenery. How can anyone even think of destroying it?
Beth Barclay, Edinburgh

Residents have also formed opposition groups, including Highlands Before Pylons and Pylon Pressure, raising concerns about threats to tourism, house prices and health.

The 11-month inquiry, set to be the longest of its kind in Scotland since devolution, will hear evidence from a long list of witnesses and sit in Inverness, Newtonmore and Stirling.

SSE has already ruled out an argument for putting the line underground on cost grounds.

The company's chief operating officer, Colin Hood, said: "We believe that our proposals, which reflect five years of environmental and technical studies and public consultations, are strongly founded and will eventually receive the go-ahead.

"It is vital that they do, because the country's goals for greener and more indigenous sources of energy depend on it."

Opening the inquiry's first session, principal reporter Timothy Brian said the proceedings were unusually long and complex.

"The aim is to give everyone a fair hearing and provide the reporters with all the information necessary," he said.

The inquiry reports will eventually be submitted to Scottish ministers for a final decision.

The kind of pylons that could straddle the landscape

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