Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), operating under licence as Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission plc, has submitted plans to Highland Council for a proposed electrical switching station north of Wick. The proposed building would house equipment to enable a potential transmission cable link to Shetland to connect with the Caithness-Moray cable that is currently being installed.

Under the plans, the development would be located on an area of lower ground between Wick John O’Groats Airport and the coast. Initial consultation with local communities and relevant public bodies took place in September last year to obtain views on several site options. Following the selection of the inland site, further public events were held in March and August this year to seek views on more detailed design, landscaping and access proposals as they were developed.

Commenting on the plans submitted, SSEN’s Lead Project Manager David Inglis said:

“Over the past year, our team has made good progress with developing detailed proposals for the proposed switching station which would be needed to connect Shetland to the mainland transmission system for the first time.

“Local residents have played an important part in the process, both helping us to identify the best available site in the area and in developing a design which is sensitive to its surroundings. I would encourage anyone who was not able to attend our most recent consultations in August to view the 3D ‘fly-through’ that has been published on our web page to get an overview of what is proposed.

“By siting the building carefully, using landscaped mounds and a curved roof, we have tried to minimise the prominence of the building in the surrounding area. We have also identified a construction access route which, if acceptable, would allow heavy traffic to avoid residential areas of Wick, Papigoe and Staxigoe. The completion of extensive environmental assessments and engineering studies means we are now ready to submit our plans for consideration by Highland Council.

“I would like to thank everyone locally who has contributed to the development of our proposals to date. As a responsible developer, we will work actively with local communities to minimise disruption and support long term economic benefits if consent is granted and the project is able to go ahead.”

The project website can be found by searching for Caithness at www.ssen-transmission.co.uk. SSEN is applying for planning consent in order to be ready to provide the proposed transmission connection to Shetland if it is required. In order to obtain regulatory approval for the project, it is also making preparations to submit a funding request to industry regulator Ofgem, subject to confirmation of UK Government policy regarding island generators’ participation in a future Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction.

The plans are accompanied by an environmental appraisal and relevant information can be reviewed on the Highland Council’s planning portal under application reference 16/04505/PiP or by visiting the Caithness planning office on Market Place in Wick. Members of the public can submit comments to Highland Council via the planning portal; via post to ePlanning Centre, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, IV3 5NX; or by email to eplanning@highland.gov.uk.

An image showing the proposed development, as it would be seen from the public road to Noss Head (landscaped mounds are shown, but not proposed planting)

An indicative view of the proposed development from the public road to Noss Head, looking towards Wick John O’Groats airport

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