BUILDERS hitting underground electricity cables are responsible for the high number of power cuts in a rural village, councillors heard.
Huw Thomas, operations section head of Scottish Power, told Kelsall Parish Council building work was behind almost half of the power cuts experienced in the village already this year.
He said: 'So far this year there have been 15 faults within the village, eight of them have been on the underground cable network and six of them down to third party damages.
'There has been a lot of development within the village and this has caused a fairly large proportion of the problems experienced in the last nine months, and perhaps beyond that if we looked at it in detail.'
Mr Thomas described the number of power cuts experienced this year as 'reasonably high', adding that without them the village's power supply would be acceptably reliable.
'In broad terms we expect one to 1.5 faults per 100 customers, so in Kelsall where there are 1,500 households you are looking at between 15 to 22 faults a year.
'If the six faults caused by third party damages were taken out of the equation it would be about reasonable.'
Mr Thomas said four sub-stations in the village are supplied by a high-voltage supply from Tarvin. A low-voltage supply is then fed from the sub-station to houses via overhead lines and underground cables.
He said recent improvements to the Tarvin substation have improved the area's electricity supply, with only one major fault on the high voltage supply last year, in comparison to five in 2002.
He added that Scottish Power has refurbished 90% of Kelsall's electricity cables and has plans to replace many overhead lines with aerial bundle cable which is a thicker, more robust cable not affected by bad weather.
Underground cable will only be considered if a line is to be laid near a school or play area or another area requiring extra safety precautions, because the aerial bundle cable is just as reliable.
City and parish Cllr Tony Castle praised Scottish Power's work in making improvements to the system, but said villagers were concerned there were not enough engineers during the storms of October 2002 to deal with power cuts.
Mr Thomas said the power cuts in question were brought on by exceptional circumstances.
'The way the industry works is that we have an agreement with other electricity companies whereby we share staff in emergencies.
'If there is just one area affected we are able to move staff about throughout the country but that October everywhere was hit pretty badly so we could not get the staff to support us.
'We did import staff from Ireland, doing that took some time and they were working in a different way to us. It didn't prove the best move Scottish Power ever made.'
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Castle said he was satisfied with the answers provided by the company.
'We were concerned about the way they reacted to the storms in October 2002, but their attitude has changed in the last two years, they have got the message that Kelsall in the past has suffered terrific outages and they need to be more open about it.'