Glen Etive. Photo: Tim Parkin/onlandscape.co.uk

Glen Etive. Photo: Tim Parkin/onlandscape.co.uk

Mountaineers in Scotland are urging planners to look at the bigger picture when considering proposals for hydro-electric schemes in Glen Etive.

Highland Council is being asked by developers to approve seven separate small-scale hydro-power proposals in the glen.

Mountaineering Scotland said each one would involve constructing new roads, bridges and trenches, with new power cables, all for a relatively low power output.

It pointed out Glen Etive is both a national scenic area, and a wild land area that featured in the James Bond Skyfall film.

Stuart Younie, Mountaineering Scotland chief executive, said: “We are challenging the Highland Council on its stewardship of Glen Etive and call for the planning department to defend this much loved landscape.”

Mr Younie said it was essential to look at the whole picture of development in the glen rather than treating each application in isolation.

Davie Black, access and conservation officer for Mountaineering Scotland said that the big picture in Glen Etive would include a new three-wire overhead grid connection offered by SSE to the developer.

He said: “This is ironic as SSE has recently been claiming green credentials by proposing to underground powerlines in the Nethy Bridge and Boat of Garten area. If it can be done there, then the criteria apply equally here in a national scenic area with its qualities of wild land.”

Stuart Younie added: “Wild land is fragile and requires understanding of what can damage its qualities for generations to come, and it needs a commitment to protect those qualities. The Highland Council is now holding this future in its hands and we urge the council to take the steps needed to look after it.”

He said figures show that nine out of 10 small-scale hydro-power proposals have a success rate with the Highland Council planners.

“This is despite the increasing complaints of poorly constructed and restored access tracks, intake weir pipework and bare concrete facings.

“We have already written to the Highland Council planning department voicing our concerns about the legacy of intrusive tracks, and their reply confirmed they do not have the resources available to monitor every development, and instead rely on local people and other organisations to alert them to any alleged breaches of planning conditions.

“If developments are to be given permission in such sensitive areas that permission should only be given where proper monitoring and safeguards are in place.

“If either the Highland Council or the Scottish Government want to be taken at all seriously as stewards of some of Scotland’s most iconic scenery they must up their game.”

Mountaineering Scotland, which represents hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers north of the border, said it supports the Scottish Government’s drive to increase the capacity for producing energy from renewable sources, but does not believe it has to be at the cost of the nation’s world-renowned landscape which, it said, makes a huge contribution to the economy as well as to health and wellbeing.

Davie Black said: “Small-scale hydro-power schemes should be relatively benign forms of renewable energy generation, but do not come free from environmental costs. If not carefully designed the construction footprint and visual legacy in areas of natural beauty and wildness can greatly outweigh the power generation produced by each scheme.

“Two of the schemes were withdrawn due to concerns over their impacts, but have been recently resubmitted with modifications.

“Do the schemes that lie in the wild land area really need a new track to just clean the intake weir? It should be simple enough to walk in from the existing track.”

Comments on the Glen Etive proposals closed on 6 January. The Highland Council is now considering whether to grant planning approval to them.

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