In July last year SSEN Transmission started work on the £31.9m project to remove 12km of overhead line and 46 towers from the Cairngorms National Park, after nearly 18 months of hard work the project is coming to an end, as the team dismantle the remaining towers.

The project was split into two sections, the removal of 15 steel lattice towers and approximately 4km of overhead line between Docharn wood and the Boat of Garten substation. The second scheme would remove a further 31 steel lattice towers and approximately 8km of overhead line between the Boat of Garten substation and Craigmore Wood, to the north of Nethy Bridge.

From the beginning, the project has been a real community affair with the local community involved in every stage of the development of the project, their feedback helping to shape the project, the sections of line selected for undergrounding and the final proposal submitted to Ofgem.

Once construction commenced and the site compound was set up the project team opened up the doors, welcoming the local community to join them for a slice of pizza from local company, Cheese and Tomatin. Over a slice they found out more about what would be involved in undergrounding the powerlines and the special techniques they would be using to prevent the need to close local roads.

From the outset of the project, SSEN Transmission and their principal contractor Morgan Sindall Infrastructure were keen to offer their help to the two local primary schools, Deshar Primary School and Abernethy Primary School. First, they donated kit to help the children stay road safe; back packs, hi-vis vests, reflective slap bands and wind up torches were given to all primary and nursery children to help them be seen when walking to school in the winter months.

Second, they put their practical skills to good use, replacing the play bark at the Abernethy Primary School and removing old fencing around the school. At Deshar Primary School they extended the existing road side fencing, and tidied up the school’s garden, clearing our nettles, creating a new pathway, raised flower bed and a new quiet zone using log rounds.

The team were also able to lend some practical advice and materials to the Boat of Garten Community Company when they needed to repair a dam at Milton Loch. Using stone donated by Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, Boat of Garten Community Company Wildlife Group (BoGWiG) were able  to raise the water level in the loch to benefit the local wildlife.

The community have also been able to get creative and find a new purposes for the underground cable drums once the cable was laid. A couple of locals are now in the process of upcyling the drums and turning them into tables and garden furniture. So, keep your eye out the next time you walk past someone’s garden, their snazzy new garden furniture might just have started life as an underground cable drum.

Community Liaison Manager Louise Anderson, reflecting on the project said:

“It was important to us that the community’s views were at the heart of the project and the decisions we made, so we worked to build strong relationships with the local community from the outset. Working to keep them informed at each stage of the project and working with them to develop appropriate construction activity mitigations.

“Often the projects we are working on can be in quite remote locations, so it was great to get the opportunity to know the local community, myself and the team really enjoyed getting to know everyone over a slice of pizza when work began.

“Now the project is drawing to a close it is great to see the positive impact the project has made, helping to restore the surrounding area’s natural beauty. “

The project team are now preparing to dismantle the remaining towers which they hope should be completed by the end of December. After that they will be focusing on completing the reinstatement works and pack up of their site compound and head to their next VISTA project in Loch Lomond.

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