Rothienorman substation plans get council backing

Aberdeenshire Council
Aberdeenshire Council

Energy giants Scottish and Southern Energy have received consent for a major new substation development at Rothienorman.

The firm already had planning consent for the facility at Wood of Middleton to upgrade its 275kV system to 400, but changes to the site layout brought a fresh application to the table prompting local objections.

Residents feared water supplies could be seriously affected and that a SUDS pond had the potential to overfill the nearby Black Burn.

There were also serious concerns over the volume of construction traffic which could create safety issues on the narrow rural roads.

At a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council on Thursday, councillors were reminded that the application had come about as a result of changing requirements on the part of the developer and as such the scheme was different from those which were previously approved.

The substation is now positioned further to the north and its gear has been rotated by 90 degrees to enable future development if required.

Addressing the meeting, SSE’s chartered town planner Lauren Riach told councillors that with regards to private water supplies, a risk assessment had been undertaken in order to identify the vulnerability of nearby sources. While no significant impact was anticipated, she said the company was working with SEPA on a programme of monitoring.

She stressed that in the event a water supply is impaired, a separate water source would be provided to residents for as long as it took to resolve any issues and that there was only a one in 1,000 flood risk to the Black Burn which would not experience any increase in water volume than prior to the development.

In terms of the landscape and visual impact, Ms Riach acknowledged that the development would have a localised impact, but said the site area had been increased from those previously approved to enable additional landscaping.

She said that a traffic management plan would be drawn up by the contractor and stressed that construction traffic would access the site from the west to ensure there was no increase from the Rothienorman end.

Road-widening and a series of passing places are also proposed in the plans.

Despite the assurances, councillors wanted to see additional measures introduced to safeguard local residents against the water risks in particular.

Councillor Andy Kille questioned what sort of SUDS pond maintenance timescale was proposed and was told a year had been suggested.

Backed by councillors Fergus Hood and Alistair Forsyth, he said that wasn’t nearly long enough, with the council agreeing that a ten-year maintenance programme be adopted.

SSEN also agreed to introduce a community liaison contact to keep residents and councillors informed of ongoing matters.