Expansion of mid-Berwickshire electricity sub-station is a “step too far”

Tuesday August 8th 2023

Eccles substation scottish borders

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Paul Kelly

A decision on proposed expansion at an electricity sub-station in Mid-Berwickshire has been put on hold amid fears over the loss of prime agricultural land.

An application has been submitted by SP Energy Networks (SPEN) to Scottish Borders Council for the erection of two hybrid synchronous compensators on land north of Eccles Sub-station.

Consent is sought to extend the existing substation with additional electrical apparatus measuring up to 12.5m in height, to support overhead power lines.

The compensators are rotating electrical machines used to maintain the stability of the electricity network.

Each compensator is to be housed within a pitched roof steel profile building which will have a maximum height of 15m

The Eccles substation is recognised as a nationally important facility, forming a key part of the electricity network, enabling cross-borders electricity transmission.

The proposed development will not generate electricity but instead provide key infrastructure which supports the transition towards net zero targets and meets demands of the grid network.

When members of the council’s Planning and Building Standards Committee met on Monday, August 7, they were recommended to approve the expansion plans.

But Mid-Berwikshire Councillor Donald Moffat expressed his concerns, saying: “We approved two planning applications in this vicinity, one of which was the battery storage compound, and I supported both but what has been put forward here today really bothers me because it is really good quality agricultural land and this is a small farm.

“I think this takes quite a percentage of the farm away and what bothers me is that this is going to take away good prime agricultural land and possibly have an impact on the viability of a small working farm which has been in the same family for two or three generations. I think this one is a step too far.”

Members agreed defer a final decision on the latest application for more information from the applicant and details of its strategic plan for the area.

In his report to the committee SBC planning officer Scott Shearer says: “It is accepted that this proposal will play an important role by providing essential grid infrastructure which is required to help to de-carbonise electricity supplies, meet the commitments of the Climate Change Act and demands of the grid network

“There will be visibility of the proposed development within the surrounding landscape, however this impact is mitigated to an extent by the presence of the existing substation and tall electricity pylons which will continue to dominate views.

“The landscape architect has suggested that the inclusion of intervening hedgerow planting in particular at locations between certain viewpoints and the application site”.

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