Last weeks blog, entitled, "A Playground For Gentlemen", was all about a short hillwalking trip with friends to the great Highland landscape of Corrour. This week's blog is from the same weekend but on a very different, and worrying subject.
On our second day, on a drizzly, cloudy Sunday morning, we made our way toward Corrour Station. The path leads from the old ruin to a landrover track close to the SYHA hostel on the shores of Loch Ossian, where we would then turn left and head out to the station and on to climb the hill Leum Ullieum.
As we came toward the end of the path I noticed that it had been improved dramatically, from a rough muddy path to a wide, hard-packed and smooth track. At first I was quietly pleased, until we reached the landrover track. Here was a sign, erected by Corrour estate, informing of forthcoming "improvements".
The proposal is to build three hydro power plants, themselves small in size, to generate electricity. Two are to be located at the Corrour Lodge at the eastern end of Loch Ossian, and one further north and west, at the head of Loch Treig. Alarm bells started to ring when the information on the sign stated that the power plants would generate enough electricity for up to 2000 homes. Apart from the lodge, the youth hostel and the B&B at the station, there is not anything like 2000 homes. Not yet anyway, was my thinking.
I contacted the estate on my return and they responded very quickly. They say that the power generated is for the estate use and that the rest will be sold to the National Grid via a series of cables buried underground, along the historic line of the Road to the Isles, the path we had walked the previous day.
There will be a great deal of construction required and new roads are being put in which, once the construction period is over, "will be reduced in size to the width of a quad bike". I found it strange that they should be as specific as to mention a quad bike. Not a welcome addition to a wilderness area if they were to become a regular feature. The estate assured me this was for maintenance only in the future.
But I can't understand why an already wealthy estate such as Corrour needs to generate such a large quantity of electricity to sell the majority to the National Grid. I'm all in favour of green energy, but I smell a rat in here somewhere.
The impact study was in consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage and the Highland Council, so I wrote to them with my concerns. I was surprised when SNH replied that planning permission had still not be granted, yet it was clear construction work had begun in the area by the presence of large diggers and earth moving equipment, together with giant rolls of electric cable. Highland Council have not replied at the time of writing this blog.
SNH were helpful though in giving details of the planning application should I or anyone else wish to write in to object. If you wish to have your say you should go to the Highland Council ePlanning website at http://wam.highland.gov.uk/wam/ The planning reference is 14/00714/FUL
Part of their reply stated "the proposed capacity of a development does not necessarily indicate future plans to build houses". The use of the words, does not necessarily indicate, does not mean never.
The estate promise that the long term outcome will benefit hillwalkers and cyclists with a more robust path on the Road to the Isles, and improved vegetation, as the habitat will be replanted after the construction.
The company behind the project management are based in London, and I seriously doubt have ever spent any significant amount of time in this wilderness area. There are precious few such naturally wild areas left, and why is it man thinks he can "improve" upon the natural environment.
There's trouble brewing in this playground I feel, and there seems little anyone can do to stop it.