CONSERVATIONISTS fear a wild glen that starred in the James Bond film Skyfall will be blighted by a £15 million green power plan.

The developer of the scheme says his firm will “minimise” impact from the seven hydro-electricity installations in Glen Etive which will generate enough power to fuel a town roughly the size of nearby Oban.

But the John Muir Trust (JMT) has registered objections to planning applications for the three schemes on the south-east side of the 10-mile single-track road that threads through the glen, in an area that is officially designated as “wild land”.

The others are in an area already affected by forestry development, and do not face a formal JMT objection, but the trust says the overall impact of all seven plants will be detrimental.

All seven schemes will include access tracks, intakes – small dams – and turbine houses.

The glen is in the Ben Nevis and Glen Coe National Scenic Area, one of 40 such areas in Scotland. In Skyfall Daniel Craig’s Bond and Judy Dench as M stop in the spectacular glen on the way to Bond’s family home in the Highlands.

On a visit to the glen JMT policy officer John Low said: “One of the things that makes it a wild land area is the grandeur and spectacular nature of the hills you see above us. There’s no obvious sign of man-made influence in there. You can look in and enjoy a feeling of seclusion and wildness ... we have concerns about anyone who wants to develop in such areas.

“They want to put an access track in first of all for construction up to 20 metres wide ... they’re going to reduce it to about 1.5m wide after that but it will take years if not generations for it to disappear, so it will impact on people’s enjoyment of the area.

“You can see by the number of people just looking at the scenery today that that is what people appreciate. Glen Etive is a very unusual place in that you can drive into it and then look into a wild land area. This development will bring man-made features into that.

He continued: “Yes, it’ll affect walkers and mountaineers, but also the tourists who just visit along the road, and who look in, and are not necessarily able to get into the wild land – they can still see it and enjoy it and appreciate it.

“If all these seven developments go up at the same time then when they build the access tracks as you go through the glen you will see all these access roads so there will be a cumulative impact.”

Subsidised feed-in tariffs have helped fuel a boom in small-scale hydro electricity in the Highlands in recent years with dozens of installations across the region.

The National:

William Dickins, above, who is based in Glen Lyon near Aberfeldy, runs the Dickins Hydro Resources company that has brought forward the hydro plans. The firm has previously developed two other micro-hydro schemes.

Dickins hopes to sell the electricity to the National Grid for the subsidised rate available for green power under the Feed-In Tariff system, and will transmit it from the glen on an upgraded version of the existing wooden electricity poles.

He said: “Where possible we will be using existing tracks on the hill. In nearly every case there are stalkers’ access tracks or hillwalkers’ tracks. We are using them as they are already existing landmarks.

“They will be set up to facilitate access for reasonably large machinery and thereafter will be reinstated back to a small narrow track to provide access for maintenance.

“We are taking every step to follow existing landmarks and we will reinstate those with great care once we have finished.”

He said the schemes would be built on a rolling programme so all the sites would not be affected at once, to minimise the impact of the work, and he is hoping to bring in materials by sea along Loch Etive to help avoid disruption. Turbine houses will be designed to look like other local buildings.

The company also wants to support the community, possibly with an upgrade to internet links or help with transport issues.

“We are very keen to look at supporting the community and we have had meetings with the residents of the glen to discuss this,” Dickins added.

“I would certainly think that we would be able to overcome these objections, we have worked long and hard to produce a plan that fits in with the community and fits in with what’s required in constructing in wild land.”

Mountaineers from the Grampian mountaineering club in Dundee have previously objected to the plans for one of seven of the streams because it will affect the water supply at their club bunkhouse at Inbhirfhaolain.

It is expected the plans will be decided by Highland Council in October.