Operators of the world’s last remaining turntable ferry have launched a petition over fears plans for new pylons would have a “catastrophic effect” on its future.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has outlined plans to install 15 new super pylons near Kyler Rhea in the south of Skye.
The venture forms part of their £480 million project to replace the existing power lines from Ardmore on Skye to Fort Augustus.
Citing pylons along with Kyler Rhea Glen would deviate from the existing route north of Kylerhea village, coming into contact with MV Glenachulish, the original Glenelg to Skye car ferry.
The plans have sparked anger among locals in the area.
Petition launched by operators of Glenelg to Skye ferry
Jo Crawford, general manager of Isle of Skye Ferry Community Interest Company – owners and operators of the ferry – launched an online petition this week opposing the proposed route calling for neighboring residents to make their voices heard.
In just 72 hours, more than 1,300 people have signed the petition.
Ms Crawford says she fears the new route could lead to a significant downturn in passenger numbers, leaving the ferry at risk of closure.
She said: “The ferry company is not objecting to the upgrades of the pylons and the whole system; not in any way at all.
“What we are asking people to object to is the proposed route of the pylons, coming right across the front of where the ferry crosses and up the Kyler Rhea Glen.
“There is an existing alternative route that the pylons already follow. It doesn’t impact any small local businesses and it doesn’t impact any residents either so the existing route is a simpler, less complicated option, whereas citing them right the way along here would be catastrophic, I think.”
She added: “I think that people would stop coming in significant numbers, which would have an impact on the sustainability of the ferry operations and therefore, the employment for local people it provides.
“We provide employment for 10% of the working-age population in this small community which is no small thing. Visitors provide our bread and butter so if people don’t come, we won’t be able to continue, it’s really just as simple as that. “
Ferry operators question the sense of diverting the route
Consultations were previously held by SSEN bosses in both Skeabost and Broadford to garner public feedback on the plans.
In March, Highland councillors said they would not object to the plans.
However, planning experts and local representatives agreed they could only support one specific route through Kylerhea.
SEEN’s preferred route would follow the existing overhead line and head south near Loch Alsh to the existing crossing point, utilizing the existing towers north of Kylerhea village.
The alternative option, which has met with controversy, follows a more southern route down the Glen Arroch road to the glen towards Kylerhea, traversing the hillside above the village and the ferry terminal. It would then head north through woodland to the existing overhead line’s crossing point over the Kylerhea.
Ms Crawford says she “questions the sense” in the alternative route, fearing for the detrimental impact it could have.
“Once all the pylons on this route are replaced, the older pylons must be removed, so they are going to have to go in about the old ones and take them all down,” she said.
“That means putting in new roads and access tracks.
“Why would you do that in two places when you could just do it in one and why would you choose this particularly special and historic place to do it in when it provides such important employment and community support.”
SSEN has been approached for comment.