Public opinion sought on ‘undergrounding’

Electric current overhead.
Electric current overhead.

A major power distribution company is urging the public to nominate overhead power lines running across officially designated beauty spots that they would like to see go underground.

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) has launched a six month consultation to identify 48km of its overhead distribution network in National Parks and National Scenic Areas that can be driven subterranean.

The Western Isles areas of South Uist Machair, Southern Lewis, Harris and North Uist are included in the consultation.

The £5.5 million project will give the public, authority groups and charities the opportunity to nominate overhead line sections, normally carried on wooden poles, within SHEPD’s network areas, which they would like to be considered for underground distribution instead.

SHEPD is responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying around 750,000 homes and businesses in the north of Scotland, the Highlands and Islands.

The company says it will work with a variety of planning offices with responsibility for National Parks and National Scenic Areas to help it compare and prioritise the nominated sections.

The cost to underground the overhead sections can vary due to the voltage, length of circuit and geography and these will be considered when selecting the final areas.

SHEPD engagement manager, Kirstine Wood, who is working on the project said: “We want our customers to play an important role in deciding which areas we consider for undergrounding.

Overhead power lines are vital to ensure a safe, reliable and cost effective electricity network.

However, we understand people feel they can have a detrimental impact on the views of the natural environment. To help address this concern we are launching a programme of undergrounding overhead lines in National Parks and National Scenic Areas.

“Undergrounding overhead lines is expensive and can often cause more damage to the environment than wooden poles or towers. Therefore we have to carefully consider each nominated area, work closely with other utilities, landowners and public bodies to plan and identify the best areas where we can do the work.”

To nominate an area people need to complete a form on SHEPD’s website:

Submissions will require a photograph of the suggested area to show the current impact the overhead line causes.