The destruction caused by the Beauly Denny in the Cairngorm National Park

January 20, 2017 Nick Kempe 3 comments
This photo is of same section of restoration work of Beauly Denny line as was featured in Park champions but from below

The purpose of Parkswatch is to try and ensure that our National Parks live up to the aspirations that led to their creation.   The focus is on what is going wrong, trying to understand why this is happening and then suggesting what needs to happen.   In trying to do this, I and other contributors will not always get things right and being an open and critical forum are committed to correcting errors where they occur.


I am grateful to the person who, in response to the post on Park Champions,  has  pointed out to me that the Cairngorms National Park Authority were not the planning authority in this case and that the decision was taken by the Scottish Government.   I have also been informed that in relation to extremely poor restoration work, the CNPA  had a number of site meetings with the Developer to express its concerns but, as its not the planning authority in this case, it cannot require the Developer to put the damage right.   In other words its the Scottish Government that needs to be held to account for this.  I am pretty certain this is right and have contacted the Government to try and find out what they have done or are planning to ensure the terrible destruction along the Drumochter is restored properly.



Besides their objection to the Beauly Denny powerline going through the Drumochter, which was overruled by the Government Reporter, the CNPA has used its powers to reject subsequent planning applications by the Drumochter and Ben Alder estates to retain the tracks that were installed to construct the powerline (see here for Drumochter committee report).   Its worth quoting from that report says:

In other words, there was supposed to be restoration “to ensure the landscape is returned to its pre-works condition”.  The photos show that this clearly has not happened.


Indeed while planning permission may have been rejected by the CNPA to make tracks permanent, it appears that tracks are able to create de facto tracks by driving their vehicles along the area of “restored” ground as in the photo above.


Re-reading my comment in “Park Champions” I think it was still partially valid.  I accept that it appears the Scottish Government should be taking a lead on ensuring the ground that was destroyed in the construction of the Beauly Denny is properly restored (and it would have been good to have mentioned this), but there is still a question of whether the CNPA is happy with the quality of the work:


The photo above is to illustrate the excellent question to Grant Moir by Mark Stephen who observed that in travelling up the A9 corridor on entering the Cairngorms National Park you “are hit” with pylons and asked whether this gave the wrong message?   While Grant explained the CNPA had adopted a policy of no large wind turbines in the National Park, and that national priorities had overriden the objections of the CNPA to the Beauly Denny powerlines, he said nothing about whether the CNPA was happy with the quality of the work. 

The question this case raises is whether the CNPA should have more powers so the Government cannot simply allow breach of planning conditions to be ignored.    This is very relevant to the Drumochter and other parts of the Cairngorms National Park where the project to dual the A9 could have significant impacts on landscape and indeed access (a subject to which I will return).  The CNPA has been trying to influence that process and its vitally important that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland ensure that the final plans are the best possible for the National Park.  The Beauly Denny may have been in the national interest, but the way its been finished has certainly not been according to the standards we should expect in a National Park.

3 Comments on “The destruction caused by the Beauly Denny in the Cairngorm National Park

  1. I’m afraid the Scottish Government cares little about rural Scotland . Hoping for any kind of SG action against bad restoration or ignoring of planning consent conditions is an extraordinary level of optimism. If its not the Central Belt or Dundee forget it. [ How many big pylons or wind turbines can you see from Edinburgh ?]
    But your website is very interesting and important and hopefully one day will bear fruit.

  2. A factual correction- The CNPA Planning Committee did, indeed, reject an application by Drumochter estate to retain a section of the track created to facilitate the constuction of thre powerline. North East Mountain Trust objected to the application. The estate submitted a subsequent application regarding retaining a shorter section of track. After some heart searching, NEMT supported this second application which was approved by the Park with certain conditions. The reason NEMT changed its mind is that road safety arguments in respect of estate vehicles going on and off the A9 seemed to us to be valid.

  3. George, thankyou very much for this correction. I had searched for planning applications under Beauly Denny and come up with five applications to keep the tracks. I had NOT searched under other headings but have done so now and the application you refer to can be found under Drumochter. I had thought that the CNPA was taking a much tougher line than the LLTNPA on retention of hill tracks but now I am not so sure!

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