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A controversial proposal to site a high-voltage convertor station on a site close to the Creed at Marybank has been dropped, SSEN Transmission has confirmed today (Tuesday 27 February).

In a statement released this afternoon, SSEN said: “(We) can confirm that Western Isles HVDC connector project team are no longer actively progressing the Creed North site it previously consulted on for its proposed new HVDC convertor station and AC substation, a key component for the Western Isles HVDC subsea link.” 

The news comes after feedback from groups including the Stornoway Trust, councillors, Marybank and Maryhill Community Association, Stornoway Historical Society, Stornoway Angling Association and other protestors including local crofters and other community interest groups.

The electricity infrastructure company said it recognised the strength of feeling amongst the local community against the proposed siting of the substation and is now actively exploring alternative sites. 

An update on the extended site selection process is expected in the coming weeks.

Colin Bell, lead project manager for SSEN Transmission, said: “Following feedback from a range of individuals and groups we can confirm that we are no longer actively progressing our previously identified preferred convertor station and substation site at Creed North.

“We would like to thank all stakeholders who kindly took the time to constructively provide their feedback and hope that our commitment to explore alternative sites helps address local concerns. 

“Work to identify an alternative potential site is ongoing and to help inform this site selection process, our teams will continue to balance key environmental, technical and construction constraints, whilst seeking to minimise and where possible mitigate community and landscape impacts. 

“We remain fully committed to engaging constructively with all stakeholders and look forward to presenting an update on our site selection process for further public consultation in the coming months.”

Iain MacIver, estate factor at the Stornoway Trust, said that the trust ‘warmly welcomed and gratefully appreciated the decision.’

He said: “Dependent on our island’s renewable energy aspirations is the timely delivery of the key component on which the future of so many projects rely. 

“As well as the trust’s continued support, other stakeholders must also play their part to enabling SSEN Transmission to find a more suitable solution.”

The decision has also been welcomed by Na-h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan who pointed out that, while there was widespread support amongst consultees for the project itself, the strength of feeling against the proposed siting of the substation at the Creed North location was clear.

Dr Allan said: “This news will be very welcome to local community members who had been concerned about the impact of the previously proposed site, given its position in relation to people’s homes.

“This is a good example of how consultation with communities should work – a proposal is consulted on, the feedback analysed and taken on board, then the proposals are adjusted accordingly.

“This demonstrates the importance of engaging with consultation processes to ensure local voices are heard in decision making processes.

“I met with SSEN last week to discuss the community’s concerns with the site in question, and I am very grateful for their ongoing constructive engagement with regards to this project, which is a vital element of the subsea link, due to be in place by 2030.

“I look forward to hearing more detail of the alternative site proposal in the weeks to come.”

Responding to the news that SSEN is to look for alternatives to siting a power converter station on the north bank of the Creed river, Labour candidate Torcuil Crichton said:   “This is good news. The renewables transition is going to be a delicate balance between development, community consent and environmental imperative.”

“This step by a major developer shows how important it for communities to have a say and have a share in what could be a big move to renewable energy. The best way to ensure community support is to provide meaningful community benefit from each scheme.”

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil has also welcomed the decision. Mr MacNeil said: “This is very good news for the community who had very strong concerns about the impact of the station in this area.

“I had been contacted by many concerned constituents and local organisations last year who had very strong concerns about the plans. I relayed those issues to SSEN directly and pressed for an alternative site to be looked at.

“I commend SSEN for listening to the views of residents in this area and local stakeholders instead of ploughing on without consideration which can often happen.

“I hope that a suitable site for the substation can now be identified which is acceptable to all.”

(Additional comments have been added since this report was first published.)