Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Minutes: Read the Minutes

Minutes of Special Meeting of the Highland Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Tuesday, 23 October 2018 at 10.00am.

1. Calling of the Roll and Apologies for Absence
A’ Gairm a’ Chlàir agus Leisgeulan


Mr G Adam, Mr R Balfour, Mr B Boyd, Mr R Bremner (by video-conference), Mr J Bruce, Mrs C Caddick, Mrs I Campbell, Miss J Campbell, Mr G Cruickshank, Mrs M Davidson, Mr J Gordon, Mr A Graham, Mr J Gray, Ms P Hadley, Mr T Heggie, Mr A Jarvie, Mr B Lobban, Mr D Louden, Mr D Mackay, Mr W MacKay (by video-conference), Mr G MacKenzie, Mrs A MacLean, Mr C MacLeod, Mr D Macpherson*, Mrs B McAllister, Mr D Rixson, Mr K Rosie (by video-conference), Mr G Ross, Mr P Saggers, Mr A Sinclair, Mr C Smith, Ms M Smith, Mr B Thompson

* Mr Macpherson entered the meeting following the commencement of the Hearing and was therefore ineligible to participate in determination of the application.

In Attendance:

Mr K McCorquodale, Principal Planner, Development and Infrastructure
Mrs K Lyons, Principal Solicitor (Planning), Chief Executive’s Office
Mr R Gerring, Transport Planning Manager, Development and Infrastructure
Mr S Taylor, Administrative Assistant, Chief Executive’s Office

Mr B Lobban in the Chair

Also in Attendance:

Ms Lauren Riach, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, for the applicant
Mr Johannes Smit, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, for the applicant
Mr Russell Stewart, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, for the applicant
Mr Francis Williams, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, for the applicant

Mr Stuart Findlay, for the Community Council

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr B Allan, Mrs J Barclay, Mr A Baxter, Mr I Brown, Mrs G Campbell-Sinclair, Mrs H Carmichael, Mr A Christie, Dr I Cockburn, Mrs M Cockburn, Ms K Currie, Mr J Finlayson, Mr M Finlayson, Mr C Fraser, Mr L Fraser, Mr R Gale, Mr K Gowans, Mr A Henderson, Ms E Knox, Mr R Laird, Mrs L MacDonald, Mr R MacDonald, Mrs D Mackay, Mrs I MacKenzie, Mr S Mackie, Mr A MacKinnon, Mr D MacLeod, Mr R MacWilliam, Mr J McGillivray, Mr N McLean, Mr H Morrison, Ms L Munro, Mrs P Munro, Mrs M Paterson, Mr I Ramon, Mr M Reiss, Mr A Rhind, Mrs F Robertson, Mrs T Robertson, Ms N Sinclair and Mrs C Wilson.

2. Declarations of Interest
Foillseachaidhean Com-pàirt

There were no declarations of interest.

3. Application to be Determined
Dealbhaidh rin Dearbhadh

3.1 Applicant: Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission plc. (18/00760/FUL) (HC/38/18)
Location: Land 325M SW of Whitebridge Cottage, Auchteraw, Fort Augustus (Ward 12 – Aird and Loch Ness)
Nature of Development: Extend Substation, creation of two platforms in phases, for gas insulated substation buildings, plant, access tracks, associated landscaping and other ancillary equipment.
Recommendation: Grant

There had been circulated Report No HC/38/18 by the Area Planning Manager (South) recommending the grant of the above planning application subject to the conditions detailed therein.

Hearings procedure

The application was subject to a formal Hearings Procedure, which was summarised by the Chair; all parties confirmed that they understood the process.

Prior to introduction of the application, the Principal Planner advised Members of a correction to page 1 of the Report which made reference to a pre-meeting site visit taking place and confirmed that, as had previously been agreed by the Council at its meeting held on 6 September 2018, a site visit would not be necessary on the basis that drone footage would be used as an alternative.  He also advised of a correction to paragraph 2.4 (d) within the Report and confirmed that the height of proposed 132kV GIS building was 15.95m.


The Principal Planner introduced the application and gave a description of the proposed extension to the substation.


Speaking on behalf of the applicants, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission plc (SHET), Ms Lauren Riach advised that SHET, as the transmission licence holder in the north of Scotland, had a duty under the Electricity Act to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of electricity transmission and must be able to offer connection to the transmission system, both for new generation and for new sources of electricity demand.  The proposed extension to the substation was set out in two phases and it was highlighted that this approach had been agreed with Highland Council as it would allow SHET to provide a long term plan for the amount of development which could potentially be required on the site.

In relation to site access, Ms Riach advised that Route 5 had been assessed as being the preferred route following consideration of a number of options and involved the use of publicly adopted roads through Three Bridges, Jenkins Park from immediately north of Fort Augustus.  A draft construction traffic management plan had been included within the application and took into consideration key mitigation measures to ensure that Route 5 could safely accommodate construction traffic whilst also protecting the ongoing integrity of the road. 

In drawing attention to the landscape and visual considerations, Ms Riach emphasised that the proposed development should be considered in the context of the existing substation building and towers.  It was confirmed that a Long Term Tree Forest and Landscape Plan had been developed and adopted a phased approach which would help minimise the visual impact of the development.  It was recognised that there had historically been some issues with noise in and around the substation for particular noise sensitive receptors; however, Ms Riach advised that all three problematic reactors which were found to be causing the noise issues had been replaced and ongoing noise monitoring had confirmed that the historic noise issues had now been completely resolved.  In addition to the installation of four new high specification transformers which would have low noise emissions levels, noise mitigation measures had been proposed around the existing transformers and it was therefore considered that the proposed development would not result in an increase in noise.

In response to questions asked, Ms Lauren Riach, Mr Johannes Smit, Mr Russell Stewart and/or Mr Francis Williams advised that:-

  • A Draft Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) had been prepared and would include measures to ensure that the contractor encouraged the workforce to travel together in order to reduce the number of trips required to and from the substation;
  • Discussions had taken place with the contractor regarding the use of minibuses and vans to transport the workforce and equipment to the site and these proposals would be included in the CTMP
  • The installation of all equipment on site, including gas insulated switch gears within the buildings and the new transformers, had taken into consideration the 50 cycle hum as part of the noise reduction measures;
  • The CTMP provided an indication on the number of vehicles anticipated to use the site;
  • In advising that the number of workers for a development of the proposed scale was likely to fluctuate over the period of development, it was estimated that the overall programme of development would  last five years;
  • In terms of the value of the development, it was confirmed that that contracts in the region of nine figures were being signed and was therefore considered a substantial investment in terms of the applicant’s contractors and the local area;
  • There were already a number of existing energy developments currently connected to Fort Augustus Substation and the proposed development would enable the connection of other developments including wind power projects at Bhlaraidh and Beinneun and the Glendoe hydro scheme;
  • The CTMP provided a commitment to avoid construction traffic movement and deliveries to the site during busy times including during school opening and closing times and school bus drop-off times;
  • Reassurance was provided that the behaviour of construction traffic drivers was monitored stringently and any drivers who drove over the speed limit or acted irresponsibly with their vehicle would be dealt accordingly;
  • A noise level model had been created and agreed with the Department of Environmental Health to ensure that measures were in place to reduce noise levels to an acceptable level;
  • Information was provided on the testing of noise measuring equipment and reassurance given that, in the event that any complaints regarding noise levels were received, noise measuring equipment would be installed in the relevant spot and monitored;
  • A local community officer was available on behalf of the construction company for members of the public to contact regarding any issues arising from the development and would also be in attendance at the community liaison group meetings;
  • The community liaison group met monthly in Fort Augustus and comprised of residents of Auchteraw and Fort Augustus and was attended by representatives of the applicant, including the community liaison officer and one of the lead production managers, the community council, Local Members and the Forestry Commission; and
  • It was confirmed that the electrical equipment had been designed to a specific noise emitting level and that mitigation measures, such as the creation of bunds in the earthworks and the installation of noise enclosures, had been included within the design of the development to reduce noise levels should these be exceeded.

Community Council

Mr Stuart Findlay, representing Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston Community Council raised a number of concerns, including:-

  • The work undertaken over the previous 8 to 10 years in connection with the Beauly – Denny 400kv line project had resulted in a significant negative impact on the local community including an increase in road traffic, excess noise being generated and the overall visual appearance of Fort Augustus Substation;
  • The proposed development would create massive disruption to residents and communities as construction traffic would be using a 2 mile long stretch of road from Inchnacardoch Junction, through Jenkins Park and Auchteraw to the Substation;
  • The proposed two-phased construction period of the development over approximately six years was a very long time for the residents to have to endure personal upheaval from both noise and traffic disruption and the visual impact of the construction site;
  • The three main areas of concern for the Community Council were in relation to the following:-
    • The Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP);
    • The visual and noise impact arising from construction; and
    • The landscape appearance of the site on completion of the project.
  • The proposed CTMP did not provide sufficient measures to ensure the safety of residents and children using the road daily as a safe route to school and should include enforceable measures to address speeding;
  • The CTMP should also make provision for the installation of signage along the entire route from the A82 to the construction site entrance to ensure that Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) did not deviate from this route by using the shortcut through Bunoich Brae as this was unsuitable for HGVs;
  • The unclassified road network required upgrading to a better standard than what was currently required for carrying HGVs and should include provision for the installation of adequate passing places to allow safe vehicle movement;
  • A suitable crossing for residents and children using the safe route to school was required at Jenkins Park; and
  • Mitigation measures were required to ensure a sufficient landscaping finish and permanent screening.

In response to questions asked, Mr Findlay advised that:-

  • The opposite side of the road up to the safe route to school at Jenkins Park was currently unpaved;
  • Discussion was required between the Community Liaison Group and the applicant to identify the most appropriate location for a crossing at Jenkins Park;
  • Concerns had been raised by the local community regarding the risk liability over the previous six years due to the lack of a safe crossing at Jenkins Park;
  • The provision of traffic control, such as a traffic light system or stop and go signage, had been requested due to the lack of passing places and would also assist in the monitoring of traffic speeds on the safe route to school;
  • Noise levels during construction of the Beauly to Denny project had been horrendous and whilst measures had been put in place by the applicant to address this, concern had been expressed from residents living in close proximity to the site regarding the potential noise levels arising from the proposed development and how this would be controlled;
  • It was hoped that mitigation measures would be taken to ensure that the Substation would not be visible from the road; and
  • The felling of trees could have a visual and noise impact on houses in close proximity to the Substation and therefore mitigation measures should be included to address any problems arising from a reduction in screening.

Third Party Objector

The Clerk advised that a statement had been submitted by Ms Lorraine Doolan on behalf of the Auchteraw Liasion Group; however, as Ms Doolan was unable to attend the meeting, the Clerk read out her statement which identified a number of concerns, including:-

  • In addition to connecting Bhlaraidh and Beinneum wind farms to Fort Augustus Substation, the proposed extension would also enable connectivity from the Corrie Glas pump storage scheme which was currently subject to a separate planning application;
  • It was considered unlikely at this stage of the process that the applicant had not already identified the proposed route for connection from the Corrie Glas pump station scheme to Fort Augustus Substation and therefore the proposed route should be made known to the community of Auchteraw;
  • A condition of the planning application should be a commitment to put all future connections underground through Auchteraw;
  • The operation of the existing substation had resulted in a devastating impact on Auchteraw and the proposed development would make it worse; and
  • None of the issues raised by the residents of Auchteraw had been taken into consideration by the applicant, the Community Council or the Planning Authority.

Points of Clarification

In response to questions from Members, the following was confirmed by the Principal Planner and/or the Transport Planning Manager:-

  • The increase of capacity of Fort Augustus had been proposed as part of SHET’s duty under Ofgem to deliver the transmission needs of the United Kingdom and to provide connectivity to renewable energy projects within the locality;
  • It was confirmed that a separate Section 36 application in relation to the proposed Corrie Glas pump storage scheme would be submitted by the applicant; however, the Planning Authority was bound by the different application processes which restricted the consideration of projects that might be anticipated and therefore, whilst the applicant might have a view on the potential connectivity of the Corrie Glas pump storage scheme to Fort Augustus Substation, this could not be taken into consideration in the determination of the application to extend the Substation;
  • Whilst there were no measures to include road signage/ signposting along the off-road tracks, the Council as Road Authority could work with the applicant to take forward signposting schemes to promote active travel and recreation;
  • Condition 10 within the recommendation required the submission of a Construction Outdoor Access Management Plan for approval by the Planning Authority to ensure that existing access rights within the area would not be restricted due to construction works;
  • The Construction Outdoor Access Management Plan could be strengthened by the inclusion of better signage of access tracks;
  • Route 5 would be the only route used by contractors associated with the proposed development and this would be reinforced by the applicant through their procurement processes to ensure that Burnoch Brae could not be used as a shortcut by construction vehicles;
  • Deliveries to the site would be restricted to ensure arrival out with the school bus and school start and finish times;
  • Whilst the final details of the upgrades to Jenkins Park junction had not yet been concluded between the applicant and the Planning Authority, this would be done to ensure the safety of pupils using the safe route to school and would be within the guidelines of good design and junction management;
  • The management of abnormal loads routes would be discussed with the Council’s trunk roads authority, the applicant, the contractor and Police Scotland and information shared with communities as and when they were likely to occur;
  • Whilst consultations with communities regarding the likely impact of abnormal loads was restricted to the community council within the locality of the development, Council officers could provide input based on local knowledge from communities along the routes where abnormal loads would be travelling;
  • The applicant had a good record on health and safety and road management and had shown a willingness to address contraventions of its code of conduct;
  • The use of trackers on vehicles could be difficult to implement fully as not all companies contracted by the applicant would have this type of technology fitted to vehicles; however, it was important for the applicant to work with contractors to identify the time periods where traffic would be at its most intense and for that to be managed as effectively as possible;
  • The applicant’s appraisal of the abnormal load route from Invergordon to the application site had identified some structures which might need some support work during transportation;
  • Condition 4 within the recommendation required the submission of full details regarding abnormal loads for approval by the Planning Authority;
  • Whilst the patrolling of speed limits was a matter for Police Scotland, the Council had the necessary equipment such as flashing beacons and temporary or permanent traffic count equipment to help identify where changes to the speed limit of roads occurred;
  • The transformers within the existing site which had previously failed had been replaced and covers installed around them;
  • Scottish Planning Policy sought to ensure that the country would encompass the benefits and opportunities arising from renewable energy and this was also reflected in the Council’s Local Development Plan policy which was supportive of a change to renewable energy; and
  • This type of development could provide the Highlands with the capacity to deliver more electricity power and enable companies in the area greater access to power for economic development.

Applicant’s Response to Points Raised

The Chair having ascertained that there were no further parties present that had given notification of their wish to speak, invited the applicant to respond to the points made.

Ms Lauren Riach and Mr Russell Stewart, speaking on behalf of SHET, commented on the following:-

  • The Construction Traffic Management Plan reaffirmed that the shortcut through Burnoch Brae could not be used for construction vehicles;
  • The contractor would be required to sign up to a construction noise management plan which set out the construction working hours agreed with the Council where noise was audible at the boundary of the Substation as follows:-
    • between 8am and 7pm Monday to Friday;
    • between 8am and 1pm on Saturdays;
    • no noise generating works on Sundays or bank holidays; and
    • any variations to these would need to be agreed with the Planning Authority.
  • Improvements to the route of construction traffic included the following:-
    • Every passing place along the route of construction traffic would be upgraded to a point where it would be able to accommodate two HGVs within it and the addition of three new passing places;
    • Road resurfacing was proposed from the junction with the A82 through to beyond the junction at the substation towards the community of Auchteraw;
    • Signage and white lining to be provided around the passing places; and
    • Drivers would be able to see the next passing place from the one before to enable traffic moving back and forth the opportunity to pull in and allow unrestricted movement of vehicles along the route.

Those present having been asked, and having given confirmation that the Hearing had been conducted in a satisfactory manner, the Chair declared that the Hearing was concluded.


The Principal Planner summarised the main points of the application, making reference to the key planning considerations as detailed in the report and the material considerations that had been taken into account in the assessment of the application.  He confirmed that the application was consistent with both the Council’s Local Development Plan and Scottish Government policies which were in support of enhancements to the grid network and renewable energy.  He also confirmed that statutory and other consultees were supportive of the application.  He acknowledged that objections had been received regarding the proposed development; however, the conditions recommend within the report could mitigate the impact on surrounding residents and communities.

In response to a request that the draft management plans be submitted to the local community liaison group for comment prior to their submission for approval by the planning authority, it was confirmed that the submission of the draft management plans would include consultation with Local Members, who would then have the opportunity to provide the local community with details of the plans for comment, and that the relevant conditions contained in the recommendation could be amended to reflect consultation with Local Members.

In response to a question regarding the potential economic impact of the proposed development on the value of house prices in the surrounding area, it was confirmed that his was not a material planning consideration.


The Chair having ascertained that there were no further points of clarification required by Members, opened the meeting up to discussion, during which, Members raised the following issues:-

  • The local community had expressed concern that the Council was unable to take into account live planning applications for nearby energy developments which were likely to require connection to Auchteraw substation and it was suggested that the Council raise this issue with the Scottish Government in order to try and change the current procedure;
  • It was suggested that neither of the original substation developments at Auchteraw or Beauly would have been granted permission under current planning policies as they were both located within residential areas;
  • Reassurance was offered to the residents of Auchteraw that the Council would do its best to protect them from any potential disruption arising from the proposed substation extension;
  • The opportunity for Local Members to provide details of the draft management plans to the local community liaison group was welcomed as the local community was likely to have an interest in the mitigation measures proposed in relation to construction traffic, landscaping and noise;
  • In highlighting that there were two places on the Auchteraw road from which the substation could be viewed, it was requested that an enhanced landscaping plan be submitted by the applicant and that it take into consideration the installation of heavy-standard trees to provide immediate screening of the substation;
  • In highlighting that a noise abatement order was currently in place in Beauly, it was requested that noise monitors be installed in all areas around the site where noise might become an issue for local residents as part of the Noise Impact Assessment;
  • The applicant’s offer to comply with the proposed speed limit of 20mph on all construction traffic using the unclassified roads from A82 (T) to the road end beyond Auchteraw farm was welcomed;
  • It was requested that work on the Jenkins Park junction include a reconfiguration of the junction to incorporate either a stop or give way sign, and that a clear and safe crossing be provided onto the footpath further west;
  • It was highlighted that an extension to the layby had been proposed in order to take cars using the new cemetery at Fort Augustus off the road;
  • It was highlighted that the use of a new forestry track had been proposed in order to improve safety on the Auchteraw road;
  • It was emphasised that all the matters contained within the conditions should be agreed with the Planning Authority in consultation with Local Members prior to the commencement of any development on the site;
  • In emphasising that the proposed development would have an impact on surrounding residents and traffic on the A82(T), concern was expressed regarding the current planning process and that it did not enable the Council to take a strategic view on longer term developments;
  • It was suggested that closer liaison with Transport Scotland was required in order to address the potential impact on local communities and also tourists using the A82(T) arising from future developments in the area; and
  • The proposed development represented an opportunity for further connectivity to the national grid and, whilst the concerns of the community were acknowledged, it was emphasised that the community liaison group would have the opportunity to raise any issues arising during construction with Local Members.

The Committee agreed to GRANT planning permission, subject to:-

  • The conditions recommended in the report with conditions 5, 11 and 14 being amended to include: “in consultation with Local Members” after “Planning Authority”; and
  • The prior conclusion of an agreement under of Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

The meeting ended at 12.00pm.