Inquiry opens on 'Burns country' pylons

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE DELAYED public inquiry into Scottish Power's plans to run 200 electricity pylons across 40 miles of Ayrshire countryside opened yesterday after the Government rejected conservationists' pleas for a postponement.

At the start of the inquiry in Ayr environmentalists called for an adjournment on the grounds that Scottish Power had failed to make public reports on the environmental effect of its proposed pounds 175m scheme to supply electricity to Northern Ireland.

Struan Stevenson, leader of a coalition of Ayrshire residents who oppose the plan, said local people had been denied the opportunity to examine the reports in breach of EU directives. Scottish Power, however, replied that the public could have examined the environmental studies 'at any time', and James McCulloch, the Scottish Office official chairing the inquiry, told Mr Stevenson that Ian Lang, the Secretary of State for Scotland, had indicated that the inquiry should proceed.

Mr Stevenson argued that the proposed network of pylons and undersea cables, linking Ayrshire with the Antrim coast, would cross 600 acres of environmentally sensitive woodland, 'raping glens and forests immortalised by Rabbie Burns'. He said: 'South Ayrshire is under threat. The chosen route slices through agricultural land, parts of Carrick Forest Park, and areas of regional scenic value. We see no need for the link and we intend to stop it.'

Professor Alan Richardson, a Scottish Power director, said environmental protection measures would ensure that the pylon scheme, which is backed with pounds 60m of EU funding, would be 'as unobtrusive as possible'.

The inquiry is expected to last for two months. The report and recommendations will be sent to Mr Lang, who will make the final decision on whether the scheme will go ahead next year.

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