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Greenery still killing the environment

It's behind a paywall, but we gather from the Herald that the Beauly-Denny power line, designed to bring all that wind power from the highlands down to the central belt of Scotland where it is needed, is scarring the landscape to an extent not envisaged and on a permanent basis.

Conservationists have raised concerns that tracks cut into hills to build a controversial power line, which were supposed to be temporary, are becoming permanent scars on the landscape. They say that, although the Scottish Government's planning permission for the 137-mile Beauly/Denny line was on the basis these "temporary tracks be removed", all landowners need to do to make them permanent is to apply to the local council.

Yet again, we see that environmentalism ends up damaging the environment. I hope Friends of the Earth are very proud of themselves.

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Reader Comments (80)

Are you saying that being green inevitably damages the environment? That seems like a bit of a generalisation from a specific example that may not be representative. No?

Nov 22, 2013 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug McNeall

No he's quite clearly not saying that.

Nov 22, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

In possibly related news this morning, the Today programme was reporting that the cost of delivering power to our homes has doubled since 2000 (?), and there was some puzzlement as to the cause of this. I wonder if anyone can think of any possible reasons why this might have happened?

Nov 22, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I don't think it's inevitable, but golly it happens a lot.

Nov 22, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

There are dozens of examples of wind farms doing far more damage to the environment than is ever described in planning applications. Just look at the wind farms built in the Welsh mountains.

Nov 22, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby


You don't recall what time that was on do you?

Nov 22, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I don't get it. We have power lines criss-crossing the mountains in central Pennsylvania.... the 'roads' built to put those in, are now little more than dirt tracks, suitable for hiking.

What that article shows, looks more like a freaking Highway!

Good to see that US power line construction is a LOT less invasive. Of course, I am talking traditional stuff, not the disasterous wind-power facilities going up. Yeesh.

Nov 22, 2013 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

Full text is here:
Also at: if you don't want to put on BH.

Concern at U-turn on power line hill track restoration

David Ross
Highland Correspondent
Friday 22 November 2013
CONSERVATIONISTS have raised concerns that tracks cut into hills to build a controversial power line, which were supposed to be temporary, are becoming permanent scars on the landscape.

They say that, although the Scottish Government's planning permission for the 137-mile Beauly/Denny line was on the basis these "temporary tracks be removed", all landowners need to do to make them permanent is to apply to the local council.

Around 60 roads covering almost 100 miles could be involved.

There are already three ­applications to Highland Council. They have been called in by Cairngorms National Park Authority as they are within its boundaries.

Another two are awaiting the attention of Perth and Kinross Council. One is from Glengoulandie Estate on the foothills of ­Highland Perthshire's famous mountain Schiehallion.

Agents acting for the estate say: "The retention of the existing road/track network can be seen as vital to the ongoing Integrated Land Management of Glengoulandie (total area 1,199.4 hectares)."

Their submissions say the track, which is almost three miles long, would help the estate with forestry, upland and sporting interests.

A spokesman for Ben Alder Estate, near Dalwhinnie, said he would prefer not to comment.

However, Alasdair Findlay, who owns the nearby Ralia and Drumochter Estate, also in the national park, said a "two to three mile" track would help in getting shooting parties up on to the hill.

John Peter Thomas, a Trustee of the wild land charity the John Muir Trust, criticised the move.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he said: "When the Scottish Government approved the line it made it a condition that the temporary access tracks should be 'removed', its word not mine, once the line was completed because of the damage the tracks would do to the environment and scenery of the Highlands."

Helen Todd, Ramblers ­Scotland's campaigns and policy manager, said: "We were partially reassured that the planning conditions required the restoration of these temporary tracks after construction to keep impacts to the minimum, so we are now very concerned landowners along the route are applying to make these tracks into permanent features."

She called on the Scottish government to remind councils of these conditions, "otherwise any determined developer will get the message that certain conditions may be overturned at a later date."

A spokeswoman for SSE, the developer of the northern part of the Beauly/Denny line, admitted a condition of planning consent was that the tracks were removed.

She added: "However, if the landowner wants to apply to the relevant local for consent to keep a track, that is a matter between the landowner and the council."

A Scottish Government ­spokesman said any landowner wishing to retain temporary tracks was required to apply to the council for planning permission.

He added: "The local authority will consult with relevant parties and consider environmental, landscape and visual impact before making a decision."

Nov 22, 2013 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterLinda Holt

So, this seems to me to be related to the first of the "fallacies of risk", in the document that was passed round the other day.

"Comparisons between risks can only be directly decision-guiding if they refer to objects that are alternatives in one and the same decision. When deciding whether or not to accept a certain pesticide, we need to compare it to other pesticides (or non-pesticide solutions) that can replace it."

By this logic, any damage to the environment should be compared with the damage caused by an alternative choice of technology. What are the alternatives here, and what is the damage that they might cause?

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug McNeall

Whilst our host may not think it is inevitable, as one who regularly holidayed in the once glorious Highlands before their industrrilisation, my answer is - indubitably.
Salmonds follies will live long in the memory of absent tourists.

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterpatrick healy

Eco-zealotry has caused a great deal of harm in the world. There is an attempt at listing the main ones here:

A new category of damage to wild places and vistas would be needed to include the scarring of landscapes taking place because of wholly unnecessary wind-subsidy farms and associated transmission pylons such as the Beauly-Denny ones. Most of the other harms listed are more tragic than this, but it does nevertheless mean the loss of something precious to many people.

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:06 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Green Nonsense: just off the top of my head, here are some "green" initiatives which are anything but!

I'm sure there are many others.

Wind turbines. Expensive, unpredictable, variable and intermittent electricity. Result in increased CO2 emissions due to back-up requirements.

Eco light bulbs. Give poor light and contain Mercury, which is toxic. Disposal problems.

"Water-saving" toilets. Often need to be flushed several times to clear the bowl.

Condensing boilers. Installation inappropriate in many circumstances, but it's illegal to install any other kind in the UK. Huge problems with serviceability, especially in very cold weather.

Solar power. Expensive and variable – only works during daylight hours. Back-up needed at other times.

Biofuel. Diverts agricultural land from food to fuel production. Increased food prices and lower food security. Increased CO2 emissions.

Electric cars. Only as green as the fuel source. In the UK electric cars could be more accurately described as "coal-powered" cars.

Car tax based on CO2 emissions. Tax takes no account of actual CO2 emissions, which are mostly dependent on distance driven, not instantaneous emissions. So purely a revenue source.

Wood chip fuelled power stations. Net calorific value by mass of wood is around 40% that of coal. So – less power at a higher cost. Increased CO2 emissions.

Wheelie bin blight. Large numbers of wheelie bins clutter many pavements and gardens making some neighbourhoods look like a waste processing plant.

Recycling – at least some "recycling" waste is still being transported to the far east for disposal, often in landfill.

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterScottie

@Paul Matthews

Andrew deployed this post on twitter with the tweet "Does environmentalism have a net positive effect on the environment?", and the post is titled "Greenery still killing the environment", so you can see why one might think that?

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug McNeall

Andrew deployed this post on twitter with the tweet "Does environmentalism have a net positive effect on the environment?", and the post is titled "Greenery still killing the environment", so you can see why one might think that?

Where the 'that' refers to Doug McNeall's leap of illogic at 10:34AM. Submitting these tweets in support has merely compounded his error.

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:18 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

My memory may be playing tricks, but I recall that in the late 60s early 70s a large number of access tracks were constructed in the Crieff / Comrie area by the estate owners. I think they were for forestry and shooting access. When visiting family earlier this year they were still visible, although not as much of a scar as forty years ago. Also visible was said transmission line and access facilities.

Talking to a friend from school days they are being hit by the double whammy of Beauly-Denny and an application for a wind facility, which has been rejected once, but now has an access track already going to the proposed site which will be adjacent to the transmission line. What's not to like about that?

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

I am often to be found at The Guardian trying to take them to task for their choice of photos to accompany their scare stories. Strangely, I have been on "pre-moderation" for some months now so most of my postings never see the light of day.
Your choice of photo here rather falls into the "lets take the most ugly possible shot of it we can" category.
I would not like to see Your Grace even dallying lightly with the tactics of the drama-greens.
Or am I being too sensitive?

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

I wonder if those concerned about the tracks becoming permanent were supportive of the push for green power. Once you open the door a crack to development then why should it stop at an arbitrary level and who gets to decide that level?

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Re using wood for power generation also deprives a large number of birds and animals of somewhere to live . It's often struck me as odd that the environmentalists/greens can be in favour of converting Drax but against commercial logging at the same time. Presumably Drax will be burning driftwood created by all the drowned forests caused by rising sealevels?t

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

Doug McNeall
Eco-activists — and I have dealt with a few in my time — are almost all naive, well-meaning, and simple-minded (not in any 'clinical' sense). They all tend to grasp a simple concept (CO2 is bad; the 'environment' - whatever they variously mean by that - is good and needs protecting; mankind is a blot on the planet, etc., etc.) and fail totally to see how that concept fits into any sort of larger picture.
Beauly/Denny is a classic example. Never mind the tracks, the line itself is something that they would have thrown a conniption fit over had it been for anything but their beloved wind farms. They are quite unable to grasp the simple principle that you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.
They are in essence not environmentalists. They are romantics completely detached from anything resembling the real world and examples, some of which Scottie has kindly listed above, abound. There are excellent reasons why no-one has bothered to try improving the traditional light bulb. There are good reasons why toilets are built to flush a certain amount of water. There is a very good reason why the traditional central heating boiler has lasted as long as it has (it's a cast-iron kettle; what's to go wrong?)
"But if only ..." has been their mantra for decades. And every now and again some bunch of idiots falls for it. Or some bunch of closet crooks sees how to make a killing by kidding on they believe it. And we do the bidding of Greenpeace or FoE or WWF and before long we find that even they are forced to admit they screwed up and what they believed was going to be all nice and cosy and clean and wonderful isn't anything of the sort. Electric cars don't work and anyway the electricity comes from the same place as all the other electricity (and if you need to increase your supply to cope with all the extra cars what do you do? Pay people an extortionate amount to use diesel as a back-up. How does that work on the saving CO2 front, again?).
Biomass is less efficient and produces just as much CO2 as coal and biofuel is just as wasteful and makes both food and energy more expensive, not that that worries eco-activists the majority of whom come from the comfortable middle classes and don't give a stuff. Because they're doing it "for the planet, of course.
So yes, as a rule of thumb, being a green activist almost certainly means you are making a hefty contribution towards destroying the very thing you claim to be trying to protect.
(And I haven't even started on the effect they would have on health, longevity and general well-being if they had their way and the inevitable adverse effect that would have on their beloved 'environment'.)

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:49 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Doug McNeal

"Are you saying that being green inevitably damages the environment? That seems like a bit of a generalisation from a specific example that may not be representative. "

I think Green Zealotry leads to changes with understanding the consequences

In the past greenies have seriously restricted DDT (which we now know is not the dangerous insecticide they had stated) resulting in a marked rise in Malaria and children's deaths. They have supported hydroelectric power with huge environment damage. They have supported wind power which we can see enormous destruction of our countryside. Their pressure to go green has contributed to fuel poverty. They originally supported biofuels which we can see has contributed to a significant rise in food prices and damage to the envorinment. Etc. etc. etc.

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Any cutting of the topsoil takes longer to recover in cold climates as vegetation growth is slower. A simple demonstration is to observe how quickly trees grow along railway tracks after they have been cut back in Southern Britain. Oil spills in Alaska take longer to break down because the climate is much colder. There is little growth below 5C. High rainfall and the thawing of frozen soils encourages soil erosion which will enter rivers. If soil enters rivers after the fish have spawned, eggs and fry will die because because sediment on bed restricts eggs and fry obtaining oxygen. The EA in the late 90s had a number of seminars to educate the construction industry about pollution from sites. Run off from an embankment on the CTRL damaged 5km of the River Stour in Kent.

CIRIA (2006) Control of water pollution from linear construction projects: technical guidance. Publication C648. London: CIRIA.

When it comes to developing quarries, most of the environmental impact comes from the construction process. Stripping soil and felling trees cause sediment to be released released which contains aluminium nitrate and nitric acid, sulphate and sulphuric acid. Aluminium in the sediment when the river becomes acidic( soils largely acidic) is particularly toxic to fish fry.

Linear construction sites pose far more challenges than compact ones , when it comes to preventing pollution. Anyone who owns fishing rights and/or a fish farm has genuine cause for concern if construction of roads and sites are are upslope of their property.

The photograph above shows a soil road: if water runs along it for hundreds of metres and then flows off it and enters a river , their is likely enough sediment to cause problems. The impact of water pollution is often dependent on the season. Large sediment after fish have spawned causes problems but also in late summer when the water level is low. A late summer storm which brings sediment carrying nitrate and phosphate into a river of still water can reduce oxygen levels even further and the nitrate and phosphate can cause algal blooms which can also reduce oxygen levels ; often being fatal to fish.

There is the issue of wind farms being in the path of migrating birds. I wonder what the impact of a flock of geese hitting the blades would be? What we know about fatigue is that small cracks can grow. Ten years of geese hitting blades and temperatures below -10C during the winter may cause problems. After all no-one thought square windows were a problem on the Comet Airline but they caused the crashes due to concentrating stress at the corners which enabled fractures to grow.

How are the blades on turbines going to be tested for fatigue? how are the blades going to be examined for stress fractures ?

Nov 22, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Do I spy a bit of global warming (aka 'a thing of the past') on the hills in the picture accompanying the post?

Nov 22, 2013 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Bish, the Today item was at 7.35, so fast-forward to 1:35 at

Distribution costs are about 23% of bills, £300. This has roughly doubled since 2007. It's regulated by Ofgem. Some say this part is expected to remain flat in future years, others say it could rise to £500. The reason given was "much-needed investment", and company profits were also blamed. The rather obvious reason was not mentioned.

Just found an FT article on this. To get round FT paywall google
Ofgem clashes with energy companies on impact of network charges
then follow the google link.
This does mention
"as well as the new power lines needed to connect wind farms to the grid"
which wasn't raised on Today.

Nov 22, 2013 at 12:20 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

And most of these daft things have been imposed on us by government and/or EU.

Nov 22, 2013 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Maybe the fraccers could go in after them and clean it all up?

Nov 22, 2013 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Wasn't there that study about the roads built for windmills, causing a change in the way water flows on peat bog land? Didn't it cause the peat to die/suffer. Peat bogs are supposed to absorb more CO2, area for area, than rainforest.

Nov 22, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Nov 22, 2013 at 11:49 AM | Registered Commente Mike Jackson

Absolutely agree.
The notions that warmists or greens are all closet rabid communists or can all be understood by "following the money" are ridiculous and unhelpful cliches.

The majority of greens/warmists are emotionally predisposed towards environmentalism. "The science" or any other kind of hard logic or even politics with a capital "P" comes a poor second if at all.
That's why it is so difficult to convince anyone that CAGW is nonsense, they never had to look logically at the subject to form their attitude in the first place.

Nov 22, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

No it doesn't.

next question ?

Nov 22, 2013 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

Clive Best
Care to elaborate for those of who've no idea what you're talking about?

Nov 22, 2013 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

Re: Jack Savage

> Your choice of photo here rather falls into the "lets take the most ugly possible shot of it we can" category.

The photo is toned down when compared to the one in the original article the story is from. See here

Nov 22, 2013 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, was interviewed by Jeff Randall last night on his programme on Sky, asked to justify the profit the company was making. In amongst the verbal diahorrea which seems to be a feature of Mr Holliday's style, he was at pains to point out that 'billions' were to be spent in the next few years by National Grid to 'update' the system.
One wonders just how much of this expenditure is required to connect wind farms in remote locations to the grid...

Nov 22, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

Andrew Montford, I'm guessing that with you distaste for access roads in the wilderness, you will be pushing your favourite shale gas companies to get their water and materials in and their gas and contaminated water out from remote fracking sites without creating any new access roads and without burying any new pipelines (which must be kept clear).

I'd take your crocodile tears for the environmental more seriously if I'd ever seen you or your supporters comment on the damage done by fossil fuel exploration and extraction. I doubt very much that you or they will admit that fossil fuels have huge hidden environmental costs, to say nothing of their social and political costs. And talk of such costs will immediately be met by either outright denial or accusations of wanting to kill the poor by denying them energy. Nobody here is likely to consider honestly the real environmental costs of fossile fuels.

Nov 22, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Re: Chandra

Why would fracking sites need to be in remote locations?

Nov 22, 2013 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

TerryS, you go where the gas is, I think. Or are you saying they should only explore for gas if there is also a road?

Nov 22, 2013 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Don't worry . General Wade's roads were purely temporary. And look how useful they have become.

Nov 22, 2013 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterBill Irvine

Re: Chandra,

The shale covers a huge area and modern technology allows them to drill horizontally. I believe the record is about 10,000m horizontally. This means that locating the wells in remote wind-blown locations shouldn't be necessary.

Nov 22, 2013 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Fossil fuels don't cause environmental damage as a design feature. Ecofascism does. The despoliation and deaths caused by ecofascism are features, not bugs.

Nov 22, 2013 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka


I'm not sure the fracking guys will choose to drill in a far away spot half way up a remote mountainside away from decent roads and water and electricity and accommodation and sanitation and cafes and entertainment rather than in places where such are readily available.

Nov 22, 2013 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

A wee track I know well - at Feddal near Braco, Perthshire has had to be 'upgraded' to accommodate a new substation on the moor and (presumably) some heavy gear needed to transport and unload it..

There is a man in a checkpoint with a clipboard on entry and with security fences and it is beginning to look like a military installation, not just the farm track it once was. The dog, who has never seen much beyond the postvan in her life, has to be kept inside lest she fall under the wheels of a juggernaut.

I do not imagine that once complete, the contractors will put everything back as it was.

Nov 22, 2013 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Since you seem to be the current resident expert on such matters perhaps you could point us to the hidden environmental costs of fossil fuels — as opposed, that is, to the patently evident ones we all know about and accept as the cost of a healthy, wealthy civilised society that mostly tries not to let its poor die of starvation or hypothermia.
Then you can go on from that to point us to the hidden costs of wind energy which, if you are being honest, will naturally include all the costs associated with mining the rare earth elements since most of us on here do care that Chinese serfs are effectively being used as slave labour so that we can have those windmills.
And with your spare time after that you can go back and read the article and the Herald article as well and perhaps you might cotton on to the idea that the complaint is not that tracks were needed to install the pylons (don't forget to add that to your costs, by the way) but that they were supposed to be temporary and look like becoming permanent.
Which has nothing to do with where fracking is likely to happen, has it?

Nov 22, 2013 at 4:10 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


You don't save the environment by trashing the countryside.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that our finest upland landscapes are invariably the most efficient location for wind power generation.

Whether it is appropriate though, bearing in mind the destruction caused by the installation, maintenance and transportation of the power is quite another matter.

We have hundreds of miles of motorways and railways with degraded environments adjacent to them and numerous brown field sites close to centres of population which surely could, with some little imagination, become alternatives to the trashing of our countryside for so little return.


Nov 22, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commentertonyb

@jack savage

From my experience, His Grace's snap is pretty accurate.

The access roads aren't built to take a small family saloon but to cater for industrial sized equipment movements..low loaders, cranes, heavy roadmaking stuff. They have to be deep to give stability on possibly unstable land, and wide to allow big loads and transporters to be carried. We are talking serious kit here.

Nov 22, 2013 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder


The shales in Scotland are under the central belt, so wilderness not an issue here.

In England the road network is dense enough that you wouldn't need dedicated access roads.

Nov 22, 2013 at 4:35 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

It makes good sense for the land owners ,buckets of cash for the 'energy ' and free roads where they always wanted them but could not have them .

And the irony, those doing best out of it are the very same ‘rich’ land owners so hated by the red/greens pushing renewables as the answer to 'evil coal , gas , nuclear , cats in a treadmill ' or what ever power source which would actual work.

Power to the people alight, but at what cost to ‘the people ‘

Nov 22, 2013 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Surely, a bit of honesty would do good here, of course extractive fossil fuel mining causes environmental damage, as well as social damage. Lets be fair to Chandra.

Nov 22, 2013 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick

As anyone who has ever tramped across Scotland will know, degradation tends to be much worse at higher levels than lower levels as the environment can not 'repair' itself so efficiently due to a shorter growing season and heavier rains/snow.

I would be interested to know at what altitude the photo that heads this article was taken?

Nov 22, 2013 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commentertonyb

when it comes to environmental dishonesty, I always recall the fuss kicked up by Greenpeace aqbout the Brent Spar platform. Shell wanted to sink it at sea and Greenpeace protested vociferously. The eventual "Green" solution was a lot less green than the solution of sinking it at sea.

Also, what about the Gulf Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Was the impact assessment of BP - loudly derided as deluded and complacent by Greenpeace and that environmental expert Obama - or the Greens more accurate?

Greens are just liars. End of it!

Nov 22, 2013 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

On the other hand building the motorways has created more linear nature reserves in the UK than any environmentalist foresaw in his wildest dreams. Much the same applies to railway lines.

Nov 22, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Surely, a bit of honesty would do good here, of course extractive fossil fuel mining causes environmental damage, as well as social damage. Lets be fair to Chandra.

Nick, tell us about the devastating social & environmental damage in Western Europe's biggest oil & gas producer - Norway.

Nov 22, 2013 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

very true Kellydown, I think the best places to see kestrels and goshawks are around motorways. I well recall being startled by a goshawk perching on the central reservation of a German autobahn.

Nov 22, 2013 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

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