SSEN faces challenge over converter site selection
As reported In last week’s Gazette, Stornoway Historical Society have called for “a full-scale cultural heritage appraisal” of the site which, they say, would leave “little or no trace” of the Lewis Chemical Works, an industrial development to turn peat into paraffin between 1859 and 1874.
The Society suggested instead that “there is plenty room on a separate site on Arnish between the deepwater port and Arnish Point”.
SSEN Transmission told the Gazette: “If the site works are consented, archaeological experts would be tasked to oversee any excavation works and record and preserve any historical artefacts that otherwise would forever be lost in the continued build-up of moss and peat bog in the area.
“The nature of the historic works further highlights the industrialised background of the area and offers an opportunity to utilise a previously disturbed peatland area rather than disturbing any pristine environment in a different location, helping to further reduce our impact on the environment.”
Wider objections to the proposed development have been raised the Marybank & Maryhill Community Association who say they are “totally opposed to this site selection”. They added: "We met with SSEN in July and consequently the proposed site has been moved slightly further away from most houses but far closer to others. We believe this is wrong. A construction this size should not be sited anywhere near houses”.
In response, SSEN told the Gazette: “Throughout the development of our site selection process for the Western Isles Convertor and Substation site we have sought to balance the needs of all stakeholders alongside meeting the requirements of all relevant planning and environmental policies and the regulatory and legal frameworks under which we must operate.
“Following community feedback, we actively explored and assessed an alternative option which after detailed evaluation, was ruled out due to a variety of technical and environmental reasons, in particular, the significantly challenging ground conditions, suitability for connections and the site’s proximity to protected species.
“As a result, we have further considered what can be done to reduce local impacts by micro siting and reorientating the site layout and we remain committed to continue working with the local community to further minimise and mitigate impacts. Our next steps are to further develop and refine the site moving through the consenting process with further formal consultation events planned in the late spring 2024.
“While construction of the project is not expected to until 2026, a detailed construction management plan will be in place to minimise and mitigate our impacts”.
A consultation event was being held by SSEN as we went to press on Wednesday.