Meaningful engagement with communities is helping to shape proposals

Lesley Dow, Head of Community Engagement

A blog by Lesley Dow, Head of Community Engagement

Throughout May and June we held our third series of engagement events inviting members of the public to share their views on the next phase of development for four critical national transmission infrastructure schemes across the north of Scotland that will enable the supply of clean, secure energy to homes and businesses around Great Britain while providing massive economic benefits. 

Our invitation was backed by extensive promotion through social media, updates to stakeholders who have signed up for project information through our website, and contact with elected members and local community councils. 

Around 1700 people took us up on that invite across 36 events, sharing their thoughts on several proposed onshore 400kV electricity transmission schemes including a series of new 400kV overhead lines, overhead line upgrades and new 400kV substations and HVDC converter stations.  

This latest programme of engagement included 14 statutory pre-application consultation events on proposed new substations and 22 public engagement events to share refined overhead line routes.  

As the third series of engagement events, this activity builds on already extensive engagement over the last 12 months, where we directly contacted nearly 300,000 people within 10km of our proposed projects, inviting them to attend our events and have their voices heard. In total, we have undertaken over 220 consultation events and public meetings which have been attended by over 10,000 people, and received and analysed over 12,000 written responses in what we believe is one of the biggest listening exercises in Scotland’s history. 

Key to our approach is balancing the clear need for these projects to deliver energy security and net zero with feedback from local communities, alongside technical and environmental constraints. 

This balance is by no means easily reached, but by listening closely to communities we have already made significant changes to project plans, including moving substation locations and altering overhead line routes.  

Engaging meaningfully with our communities and listening to feedback has worked and continues to work – following consultation that took place earlier this year on our Kintore-Tealing 400kV project, we are actively considering overhead line alignments proposed by community representatives and landowners. 
So, far from overlooking the concerns of communities (as some opponents of our projects have claimed) we are taking tangible, reasonable and balanced action to address issues that have been raised via a consultation process that provides genuine opportunities for constructive dialogue.  

And we are still listening.  

Teams at SSEN Transmission are now working through the feedback received at our most recent events, with the feedback window still open for most projects.  

Meanwhile, extensive engagement on the projects has also been taking place with councillors, community councils, MPs and MSPs, as we move towards preparing planning applications. 

Throughout this process we remain committed to working with communities in the north of Scotland to inform the development of this critical national infrastructure, with a further round of events taking place later this year to present refined alignments of overhead line routes. 

As a stakeholder-led business, the views shared at these events really matter in helping shape the development of our projects, as demonstrated by the changes we have made to our proposals so far. 

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has taken the time to engage with our teams throughout this consultation process – be assured that we will continue to work together in open dialogue with communities as we aim to unlock cleaner, more secure energy for homes and businesses for generations to come.