Energy changes 'could alter Dumfries and Galloway pylon plan'
Significant changes in the energy industry could alter the scale and nature of plans for a major power line upgrade in southern Scotland.
SP Energy Networks wants to build a new line from South Ayrshire to Cumbria - most of it in Dumfries and Galloway.
It has now published its report on public feedback on the plans.
It said a further round of consultation would be required later this year but said changes in the industry could affect the "scope of the project".
More than 1,600 pieces of feedback were provided during the first round of consultation - the majority from Dumfries and Galloway where most of the proposed power line route would run.
A number of points about the scheme were raised, including:
- potential visual impact of the overhead line
- preference for subsea or underground connections
- impact of an end to new UK government subsidies for onshore wind farms
- objection to overhead lines in areas where they are not already in place
- localised concerns about the sites for substations.
The company said that since the consultation was launched, there had been a "number of significant developments in the wider energy sector" which could affect the project.
However, it said it remained the case that investment was required to replace "ageing infrastructure in the Dumfries and Galloway region".
There will now be "further analysis" to determine the extent to which changes to "subsidy arrangements for onshore wind farms and the future mix of power generation in Scotland" would alter their plans.
SP Energy Networks transmission director Pearse Murray said: "In our initial documentation published last year, we indicated our intention to undertake a second round of consultation in 2016 on the preferred routes and substation sites.
"Given the further analysis work we are doing with National Grid, we believe it is necessary to take more time to consider the issues in order to ensure that the most appropriate proposal is taken forward to the next stage of the process.
"Once we have the results of the studies that are under way, we will be in a position to set out any implications on the scope of the project and our plans for the next round of consultation.
"We expect that this will be in the summer of this year."
Alan Jones, of campaign group Dumgal Against Pylons, said it welcomed the recognition that "external factors" had changed since the consultation was launched.
"While we have always recognised the need to replace the existing system because of its age, and add some future-proofing, this 'pause for thought' aligns with our thinking," he said.
"It will give Scottish Power the time they need to take into consideration not only the extensive feedback but also to reflect on how best to meet the changing external environmental circumstances."
He added that a stakeholder liaison group for the project should now be expanded and also called for independent research on the potential impact of the scheme.