Monday 11th May 2020, 4:00pm
The controversial Glen Etive hydro schemes are back in the public spotlight. A proposal recently submitted to The Highland Council by the hydro scheme developer wants to change the agreed planning conditions for road transport to allow bigger trucks to travel down the glen.
Trucks carrying cement and aggregates that had to access the glen from the A82 were restricted to 18 tonnes weight to prevent damage to the road. The agreement with The Highland Council stipulated that road upgrading was required, with neglected passing places being improved and new ones added to allow traffic in the glen to flow more easily and reducing damage to the verges.
This new planning application proposes to go further and temporarily upgrade some bridges to be able to carry 40 tonne trucks down the glen rather than the agreed 18 tonne weight already agreed.
Why is this significant? Well, construction traffic for heavy machinery was agreed in a Transport Planning Report that dealt with all seven schemes in the glen. The plan was to bring heavy equipment up Loch Etive by boat rather than from the A82, then transport through forestry tracks where possible, to the various construction sites in the glen.
This new variation proposes that all construction traffic for the Allt Chaorainn scheme will come through the glen from the A82.
This change to the agreement was brought to our attention very late in the application process, leaving us very little time to look into it. We have been in contact with the local community who think that an upgrade to the road down Glen Etive would be of great benefit to the residents of the Glen as the existing road carries a lot of traffic and blockages can be frequent.
We respect this view from the residents for improvements to the passing places to ease congestion.
We have taken a view to object to the proposal to increase the tonnage of trucks using the glen. Upgraded passing places were deemed necessary for the original 18 tonne trucks and we think that this should go ahead for the benefit of traffic flow.
It is our opinion that this proposal to alter the construction transport agreement appears to be a matter of convenience for the developer and not absolute necessity as the original transport plan to service all seven approved schemes is still viable.
We really have to ask why this was not proposed last March during the lengthy debates we had when the seven proposals were being considered by The Highland Council. The original Transport Planning Report was a considered response to the logistical challenges, and the developer had more than sufficient time to consider alternatives at that time. They chose to accept and commit to the original agreement which was publicly debated by the full Highland Council and decided in the public interest.
We are aware that this is a delegated decision which will be dealt with by officials rather than going before Highland Councillors, but would hope that those officials have in mind the considerations which led to the original planning decision by elected members and reject this opportunistic proposal.