News Release – Immediate Use
Wednesday 11 August
Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has received assurances that over 70 dams owned by SSE in the highlands have public access but not those housing flood control gear, such as Torr Achilty on the River Conon.
Following complaints about the refusal of access to walkers and cyclists Rob sought clarification from SSE. A spokesman Trevor Williams, Hydro Operations Manager, SSE Renewable Generation at Torr Achilty Power Station, said,
“Scottish Hydro Electric have around 80 dams throughout the North of Scotland, we allow public access across some 90% of these. Some require gates to be overcome but the majority are free access.”
“Of the 80 dams 8 of them house very large flood control gates of which Torr Achilty is one of the dams. The dams are all classed as industrial installations under the access code and as such do not require to be made accessible to the general public. We regularly suffer vandalism at many of these dams.“
SSE has recently carried out in depth process safety risk assessments of the dams that house the flood gates with the assistance of professional experts. At Torr Achilty they have found that the level of protection required to ensure public safety in the prevention of an uncontrolled rise in water level downstream of the dam equates to "Safety Integrity Level 2".
This simply means that they require a much more sophisticated floodgate control system and a higher level of general security at the dam in order to protect the flood gate operation and control system. Work has now commenced installing the new equipment. It is impractical to screen off the equipment and it is also impractical to provide a fenced off public footpath across the dam.
Rob Gibson was told that the public were given adequate notice that SSE would close the access across the dam by our posting of notices on site and by advertisement in the local press. SSE has been visited by a deputation from the Highland Council Access Forum under the leadership of Phil Waite, Ross & Cromarty Access Officer, who listened to these explanations and now understands the reasons that SSE has closed public access over the dam.