Spittal-Loch Buidhe-Beauly 400kV Overhead Line Project: Reports on Consultations sets out decisions on overhead line routes and substation locations

SSEN Transmission_The project is part of a wider upgrade of the electricity transmission network across Great Britain.jpg

  • Announcement part of wider series of updates from SSEN Transmission, including 400 new jobs across the north of Scotland over the next 12 months

  • Recruitment drive comes as SSEN Transmission unveils key decisions from its first phase of consultation in response to community feedback

  • Following recent UK Government Community Benefit announcement, communities across the north of Scotland in line for over £100m of community benefit funding and money off bills for those located closest to new infrastructure.  This includes over £32m of community benefit funding for the Spittal-Loch Buidhe-Beauly project

  • SSEN Transmission also sets out ambitious plans to contribute to the development of 200 properties across the north of Scotland, which following completion of the projects, will support local housing requirements

  • Biodiversity net gain, of at least 10%, to be delivered across all new projects

SSEN Transmission has today published Reports on Consultations for the proposed new 400kV overhead line between Spittal, Loch Buidhe and Beauly, which includes three new substations along its route and two new HVDC Convertor Stations at Spittal and Beauly.  This project is part of a wider upgrade of the electricity transmission network across Great Britain that is required to deliver UK and Scottish Government energy security and climate change targets.

The Reports on Consultations provides a summary of the extensive feedback received, how this has been considered and confirmation of which proposed routes and substation sites are now being taken forward to the next stage of development.

Following the first round of consultation which took place over the spring and summer, SSEN Transmission can confirm the following decisions on key sections of overhead line and substation locations:

  • In the northerly section, between Spittal and Brora, as the proposed new overhead line passes Dunbeath, the more inland of the two potential routes consulted on is being taken forward, reducing impacts on Dunbeath and surrounding settlements
  • As the overhead line passes Helmsdale, SSEN Transmission is taking forward two options to route alignment stage, one which broadly follows the coastline and an inland option
  • In the area between Brora and Loch Buidhe, SSEN Transmission is progressing the overhead line route that seeks to minimise impacts on the surrounding settlements
  • In the area around Bonar Bridge to the west of Dornoch, SSEN Transmission is progressing the overhead line route that it presented in its previous consultation.  In recognition of concerns about the potential impact of this route on the village of Culrain and Carbisdale Castle, SSEN Transmission is seeking to minimise and mitigate impacts as it now develops this route alignment
  • As the proposed overhead line passes Contin and Strathpeffer, SSEN Transmission continues to assess an alternative route developed through consultation with local stakeholders, which is being taken forward to route alignment stage alongside the initial potential route that was consulted on earlier in the year
  • In the southern section, between Dingwall and Beauly, SSEN Transmission is progressing the overhead line route that was presented in its previous consultation that looks to minimise impacts on the surrounding settlements
  • All three substation locations, at Spittal, Loch Buidge and Beauly, will progress in line with the options presented as ‘preferred’ when consulted on earlier this year

In further recognition of community feedback, SSEN Transmission will seek to rationalise cumulative infrastructure impacts through the removal and undergrounding of existing transmission lines, where technically practical and appropriate, and subject to all necessary planning consents and landowner agreements.

Work to identify and assess potential sections of existing overhead line where their removal will reduce cumulative impacts is ongoing, with an update expected as part of the next round of public consultation on overhead line alignments and more detailed substation designs in early 2024.

Commenting on the publication of the Report on Consultation, Euan Smith, Senior Development Project Manager, said:

“We would once again like to thank all stakeholders who took the time to constructively respond to our consultation, with this extensive feedback instrumental in informing the decisions on potential overhead line routes we are announcing today.

“The overhead line routes we are now taking forward to route alignment and our proposed substation locations seek to balance environmental and technical constraints alongside minimising community impacts. 

“In some sections, including as the line passes Contin and Strathpeffer and around Helmsdale, we are taking two route options to the alignment stage. We will undertake a full environmental and technical appraisal, alongside continued community engagement, to help inform which alignment we take forward.

“We are also setting out our initial rationalisation schemes, which will see the removal and undergrounding of existing infrastructure to help reduce cumulative visual impacts, with further schemes to be set out as part of our overhead line route alignment consultation in early 2024.

“We now look forward to further engagement with local communities and wider stakeholders in advance of our next round of public consultation in early 2024 and remain committed to working constructively with all stakeholders to help further inform the development of this critical national infrastructure.”

Community Benefit

Alongside last week’s Autumn Statement, the UK Government published its draft Community Benefit guidance for electricity transmission infrastructure, which has proposed £200,000 per km of new overhead line and £200,000 per substation. 

Subject to the Government’s final decision and confirmation of funding arrangements by the energy regulator Ofgem, the Spittal-Loch Buidhe-Beauly project is in line to deliver over £32m in Community Benefit Funding.  Proposals for direct payments to those most impacted by new electricity transmission infrastructure have also been set out by the UK Government, with more details expected in 2024.

Accommodation strategy

To ensure that the development of these critical infrastructure projects' positively impact local people and places, SSEN Transmission is also announcing the first part of its accommodation strategy.

This includes a commitment to contribute to the development of at least 200 properties across the north of Scotland, which upon completion of the transmission infrastructure projects, will be handed to local organisations to provide accommodation for local people across the north of Scotland, delivering a lasting legacy for future generations.   

This is expected to include new and renovated homes, as well as fully serviced sites for temporary accommodation camps for workers, delivered to the standard required to support future housing and wider economic development activities.

To help inform its accommodation strategy, SSEN Transmission has commenced engagement with Local Authorities and wider stakeholders to help identify local property needs in the location of projects, including to help address the rural housing crisis.


To see the reports on consultation for our Spittal – Loch Buidhe – Beauly 400kV Connection project, visit our dedicated project page.