There is international concern about the future of capercaillie in Scotland, where this valued species is suffering serious national decline. Most of the UK population is now confined to Strathspey. The Cairngorms are the last main stronghold for capercaillie in Britain. In spite of capercaillie having the highest level of protection under European and UK law, as well as being a key priority for the National Park’s conservation aims, yet the National Park Authority have approved 32 houses in a forest supporting over 1% of the UK population. These houses will cause a direct loss of caper habitat as well as an increase in recreational disturbance to an already-disturbed capercaillie population. The Cairngorms National Park Authority is relying solely on untested and largely unenforceable mitigation measures in an attempt to reduce disturbance to caper, such as screening forest tracks with hessian fencing and requesting the public to keep dogs on leads for 5 months of the year on some well used paths. The National Park Authority has identified alternative housing sites in Boat that could have been promoted for development, yet the only site the National Park Authority have taken forward is this site in capercaillie woodland.

 13.6.21--bog-IMG 1969-800

Woodland under threat . Capercaillie red squirrel and wood ant habitat at Boat of Garten threatened by promotion of housing by the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

 13.621-jc-arrowed--bog-IMG 1965-800

Site visit on 21 June - a juniper bush in the path of the development is indicated by an arrow. Doubts have been expressed that proposals to plant juniper at this site would yield useful visual screening.

BSCG’s case at a public meeting on 21 June 2013 was ably presented to the CNPA Board by environmental lawyer Jamie Whittle: The following is from this submission:
3. On behalf of the BSCG, I invite the Committee to refuse planning permission, on the basis of the following 4 points being:
a) Non-compliance with the Local Plan
b) Capercaillie and the European Birds Directive
c) Biodiversity
d) The aims of the National Park
Non-compliance with the Local Plan
4. The first point to note is that this development is a large development, comprising essentially 32 houses which forms roughly 10% of the current number of houses in the Boat of Garten area. A development of this scale is required to be allocated in the local plan, which it is not. Section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 requires that the development plan be followed "unless material considerations indicate otherwise". In my submission, there are no material considerations that outweigh the requirement to accord with the local plan. A development of this size cannot be considered wind fall, as it is far too large.
5. An allocation for housing in this location was dismissed by the Reporter in the local inquiry, and removed from the final local plan by the Park Authority on the basis that it ran contrary to advice given in the Landscape Capacity Study and "the need to adopt the precautionary principle" in respect of protection to capercaillie.
6. Following the adoption of the Local Plan, the Park considered and rejected an application (reference 08/272/CP) for 77 houses on this site, stating amongst other things at paragraph 133 of of the National Park Authority's appraisal of the application that "the site is not allocated in the Local Plan" and this together with consideration of various environmental policies that did not support the proposal led to a "clear recommendation for refusal of the application". Capercaillie and the European Birds Directive
7. The woodland in which the development is proposed to be located supports capercaillie, a species afforded the highest level of legal of protection under European and UK law, in terms of Annex 1 of the European Birds Directive and Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. The species is a UK BAP priority species and a key priority species in terms of the National Park's conservation aims.
8. The species is in severe national decline. The national target of in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan in 2010 was to have 5,000 birds but this target (as the CNPA points out in its appropriate assessment at page 28) has not been met by a substantial margin.
9. Strathspey has about 75% of the UK population and is therefore the stronghold for capercaillie in the UK.
10. Boat Wood supports more than 1% of the UK caper population (there is a lek of 3-5 males out of a total of about 250 displaying males in Scotland), and with more than 1% of UK population it has the capacity to be deemed an SPA in its own right.
11. As the CNPA notes on page 29 of its appropriate assessment, "Conservation of capercaillie requires consideration at the metapopulation scale as well as at the scale of individual sites. Boat of Garten wood is in a central location between Abernethy Forest, Anagach Woods, Cairngorms, Craigmore Wood and Kinveachy Forest SPAs. The area is important both as a habitat used by capercaillie that suppors this meta-population as well as functioning as a vital 'stepping stone' by facilitating movement between SPAs.
12. The Appropriate Assessment notes on page 30 that "Capercaillie are very vulnerable to disturbance". Disturbance of caper at Boat Wood is therefore of not just national but international interest. Capercaillie are already affected by disturbance at Boat Wood. They don't use ground near the village much. Also, the male/female ratio is skewed against hens therefore a little more disturbance could have a disproportionate impact.
13. The proposed mitigation uses untested methods. As far as BSCG is aware, no scientific study has been undertaken on whether capercaillie disturbance is reduced by screening paths. Developing vegetation will take many years. Dog walkers letting their dogs off leads (the Boat ranger noted 87% of dogs seen off leads last year) and ensuring that people do not stray from paths are very difficult to enforce and cannot be implemented with confidence.
14. Against this uncertainty, it is not, in my submission, possible for the CNPA to conclude in its appropriate assessment that the package of measures will mitigate risks in avoiding disturbance to capercaillie in the SPA. Certainty is required under European law, and in the absence of which the precautionary principle must apply.
15. SPAs are not the only mechanism required for the UK to meet its obligations under the EU Birds Directive and are merely one tool. Regardless of any view reached in terms of the neighbouring 2 SPAs, outwith protected areas Member States are obliged under article 4(4) of the Birds Directive to avoid deterioration of habitats to protected species. Biodiversity
16. The area in question is not simply a green field site but a valuable habitat to a range of species.
17. These include Red squirrel, some Juniper (a few bushes only), Wood ants, Fungi - incl a tooth fungi which is a rare SBL species that BSCG has no other record for, Slender Ground Hopper - one of extremely few Scottish records, has been published, Newts - smooth and palmate newt, Crossbills, Crested tits, Slender slug, ostrich plume feather moss, and creeping ladies tresses, a pinewood orchid.
18. Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act section 1(1): "It is the duty of every pu_blic body and office-holder, in exercising any functions, to further the conservation of biodiversity". The aims of the National Park
19. Unlike a regular planning authority, the National Park is required to consider matters in light of the four aims set out under section 1 of the National Parks {Scotland) Act 2000. Under section 9(6) if "it appears to the authority that there is a conflict between the National Park aim set out in section l(a) [being to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area] and other National Park aims, the authority must give greater weight to the aim set out in section l(a)."
20. The previous application for a planning application for 77 houses on this site was rejected by the National Park Authority on the basis that it created "substantial friction" between the first aim to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage, and the fourth aim of promoting sustainable economic and social development.
21. The Authority noted at paragraph 133 of its appraisal of that application that there were "serious concerns with regard to natural and cultural heritage" and that "in the face of substantial housing allocations being made elsewhere in the area, it offends a number of environmental policies" ... and "results in a clear recommendation for refusal of the application".
22. The Appropriate Assessment states (at page 31) that "this planning application is likely to have a significant effect on capercaillie in the SPAs" which mirrors the commentary of SNH in its letter of 9 May 2013. The Appropriate Assessment goes on to state that "there must be no increase in disturbance to the capercaillie at Boat of Garten as a result of this development" (p.32). Yet as mentioned above the number of proposed mitigation measures are untested and in some cases unenforceable against the general public. There is, therefore, no certainty - as required under European law - that these measures will work.
23. It is no accident that the National Park is home to the greatest example of biodiversity in the UK. The area is also home to some 75% of the capercaillie population in the UK. In the launch of the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity on Wednesday by the Minister for Environment and Climate Change he noted that "our species and habitats are under constant threat and we need to act now ... Nature lies at the very heart of what makes Scotland such a special place to live and work and that's why we're committed to halting biodiversity loss ... If we lose our wildlife or key habitats we are poorer in every sense of the word."
24. The protection of natural heritage is paramount for the long term good of the National Park. Setting a precedent that erodes biodiversity and the habitat of a European species is, in my submission, unacceptable for the sustainability of the Park. Whilst it is of course acknowledged how important it is to provide affordable housing to local families in Boat of Garten and in the wider Park, there are ways to accommodate housing needs in alternative locations with far less sensitive environmental characteristics.
25. The proposal before the Committee is therefore not the correct solution, and on behalf of my clients I ask that the Committee rejects this application.

Full submission on behalf of Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group in respect of planning application 2013/0115/DET at Boat of Garten on 21 June 2013. See PDF.

The Scotsman in Moray gamekeeper who set illegal snares fined has reported the conviction at Elgin Sheriff court of a keeper for illegal snaring activity in an area that may support scottish wildcat as well as otters and pine marten. A badger found dead at the scene near Dunphail had not been released from a snare contrary to the wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

It has long been known that badgers are often absent from areas of North east Scotland subject to much snaring.. It has also been reported that "The British badger population probably reached its lowest point in the early 1900s following years of a "systematic campaign of snaring, poisoning and shooting of carnivores..." and at a time when the number of gamekeepers had risen to about 23,000" (see Roper TJ. 2010 Badger; Collins New Naturalist).

The Scotsman report reminds readers that today "All legal snares now set in Scotland must carry a tag giving a unique identification number that identifies the operator to the police."

Pine-Marten-300

Pine marten one of the mammal potentially at risk where snares are set at middens near woodland. Photo copyright James Moore.

 

Moray gamekeeper who set illegal snares fined. 

By FRANK URQUHART
Published on 07/05/2013 16:46

A MORAY gamekeeper has been fined a total of £1,500 after being convicted of setting illegal snares in a manner likely to cause animals unnecessary suffering.

Brian Petrie, 66, of Woodhead, Dunphail, near Forres, appeared at Elgin Sheriff Court today when he pled guilty to three charges including setting snares likely to cause unnecessary suffering by partially or wholly suspending animals, and failing to release or remove an animal from a snare, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

His appearance in court followed a lengthy investigation by the Scottish SPCA.

An SSPCA spokeswoman explained: “Inspectors from the Scottish SPCA’s Special Investigations Unit found a badger and several foxes dead in Petrie’s snares which had been set around a number of middens constructed of trees and baited with animal carcasses.”

Mike Flynn, the charity’s Chief Superintendent, said: “Petrie is a gamekeeper with over 50 years experience and he had sat his snaring course one year prior to the offences taking place.

“As he was well aware of the regulations regarding snaring it is our opinion that his intention was to capture, cause serious injury and kill animals.”

Mr Flynn continued: “The snares were set in an area inhabited by sensitive native species such as the Scottish wildcat, pine marten, deer, otter and badger so there was a high risk of this type of animal being caught, maimed and killed and indeed one badger was found dead at the scene.

“This case highlights, yet again, that snaring is cruel, indiscriminate and unnecessary and the only way to stop animals from suffering in snares is an outright ban.”

The leading animal welfare charity launched a renewed call for an outright ban on snares last month after a cat, trapped in an illegal snare, suffered a “prolonged and horrendous” death.The body of the male tabby cat was found trapped by the neck in the snare in the Buckie area of Moray.

At the beginning of April the Scottish Government brought in strict new regulation governing the use of snares in Scotland’s countryside. All legal snares now set in Scotland must carry a tag giving a unique identification number that identifies the operator to the police. And only those accredited to have completed a proper training course will be allowed to.

The following letter by BSCG Vice convener Roy Turnbull published in the Scotsman of 2 May 2013 calls on the Scottish Government to rethink the controversial proposals for development of a new town in a National Scenic Area in Strathspey that continues to damage the reputation of the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

All the landscapes here have been described as highly sensitive to new housing development in a landscape capacity study and the proposal was not endorsed by two Planning Reporters who raised multiple concerns.

"Many will welcome the Scottish Government’s recent recognition of the value and fragility of sensitive landscapes, as expressed in its planned ban on wind farms in national parks and national scenic areas (your report, 1 May).

However, this policy sits uneasily with continuing plans for a new town ­development of 1,500 houses, with associated roads and ­infrastructure, at An Camas Mor on Rothiemurchus ­Estate in the Cairngorms ­National Park.

Rothiemurchus has been described as “one of the glories of wild Scotland” by Sir David Attenborough and the proposed development site, within the National Scenic Area, is presently a sensitive undeveloped area, including regenerating Caledonian pine woods.

Valued landscapes can be degraded by many forms of intrusive development. If the Scottish Government now explicitly recognises this danger with respect to wind farms, is it not time for a rethink on this plan for a new town in the Cairngorms National Park?"

There was a supportive response to this letter by Mike Underwood, Bad Planning.

Also Video nasty by Gus Jones of BSCG.

fresh water pearl mussel shells  discarded by poachers copyright Peter Cosgrove

Discarded shells of fresh water pearl mussels are evidence of illegal poaching in Scottish rivers. Copyright Peter Cosgrove.

Highland list MSP Mary Scanlon who is species champion for the freshwater pearl mussel (Margartifera margartifera) has asked questions about this globally threatened species that has a stronghold in the Highlands. Fresh water pearl mussels are meant to be protected in rivers like the River Spey where the pearl mussel is an internationally qualifying interest. Climate change, pollution and illegal persecution are however all problems faced by pearl mussels in Scotland. This remarkable mollusc is one of the species about which BSCG has consistently raised concern in the context of our legal challenge to the Cairngorms National Park 2010 local plan and appropriate assessment of housing allocations with implications for rivers like the Spey. The first Cairngorms Biodiversity Action Plan recognized the fresh water pearl mussel as a key cairngorms species.

bed-LBAP-2002-FWPM-800

LBAP-2002-FWPM-800

The freshwater pearl mussel is one of the priority species mentioned and illustrated in the first Cairngorms LBAP that published these photos by Peter Cosgrove and Sue Scott.

S4W-14151
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government how many people have been (a) prosecuted, (b) fined and (c) imprisoned under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for taking, disturbing or harming a freshwater pearl mussel.
S4W-14152
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government how many licences have been obtained to sell freshwater pearls from Scottish rivers in each of the last 14 years.
S4W-14153
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to ensure that the freshwater pearl mussel is protected while hydroelectric schemes are being developed in rivers with pearl mussel colonies.
S4W-14154
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to identify sites for a reintroduction programme for the freshwater pearl mussel.
S4W-14155
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government how many freshwater pearl mussel sites have been found to be criminally damaged in each of the last 14 years.
S4W-14156
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to assess the freshwater pearl mussel populations in non-designated rivers.

MP Danny Alexander is a fan of micro breweries. In a debate in March 2013 he expressed admiration for micro-breweries saying " one in my constituency has recently produced a beer called Ginger Rodent, which sold out in its first run". BSCG is delighted that Danny has indicated that were he to be a Westminster Species Champion the species would have to be the red squirrel.

Danny-Alexander-red-squirrel-800

Photo BSCG April 2013 Carrbridge.

BSCG calls on Danny Alexander MP to back crucial amendment to UK Energy Bill (‘the Yeo amendment’)

A crucial amendment to the Energy Bill needs support. The amendment would bring in a decarbonisation target in 2014 that many consider is vital to drive the investment required to help meet UK climate change targets.

BSCG is disappointed that so far Danny Alexander MP Liberal Democrat Treasury chief secretary has not supported this amendment. MPs and over 100 businesses and organisations including Siemens, ASDA, the Women’s Institute and Stop Climate Chaos Coalition have all backed this amendment which is also supported by independent experts.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy and climate change secretary, has said that most businesses he has spoken to support the target contained in the Yeo amendment.

Danny’s lack of support to date is all the more disappointing because in April 2013 he said, “it is never too soon to tackle climate change” and in 2006, commenting on climate change, stated, there is “no more important concern on a global level” and "climate change is one of our biggest policy concerns”.

A WWF spokesperson, warning that the government was not aligning its policies with the advice of the statutory Energy and Climate Change Committee, has commented that, "The government has started to show a disturbing willingness to question the committee's advice. Ignoring it brings into question their commitment to deliver on the UK's world-leading Climate Change Act."

He has pointed out that the Yeo amendment “will give confidence to businesses and investors now, not at some vague point in the future as proposed by the government. A carbon intensity target would help the UK attract investment in a new British supply chain with thousands of jobs across the country and show that we're serious about reducing emissions and embracing clean renewable energy."

Only last year Danny Alexander accused some Conservatives of waging a "constant war of attrition" on green issues, warning that it is endangering billions in green investment, as well as the whole government growth strategy. He described how the government has to deal with conservative backbenchers – including those he calls "luddite" climate change deniers – opposing green technologies. He was reported as saying "I just don't think the British economy can any more afford to have a blue roadblock to green growth," We agree he is right to criticise those trying to claim that green policies will hinder growth if they make British industry less competitive (See Danny Alexander: Tories must stop trashing green agenda http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/sep/21/danny-alexander-stop-tories-trashing-green-agenda }

We hope Danny Alexander MP will eventually decide to back the Yeo amendment.

 

Continuing legal challenge to inappropriate developments in the Cairngorms National Park.
The treasured landscapes and wildlife of the Cairngorms need your help. Developers are planning a whole new town and several  large housing estates in sensitive areas in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. BSCG has joined with the Cairngorms Campaign and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks to challenge this. We are appealing an important point of law in the September 21st  2012 Opinion  of Judge Lord Glennie that related to these potentially damaging proposals.
 
We and our QC respectfully believe that Lord Glennie misinterpreted the terms of the European Habitats Directive relating to the 'appropriate assessments' of Natura 2000 sites.
If we win this appeal, which is being heard on March 12th 2013,  it will be a significant judgement that should force the Cairngorms National Park Authority to revise its whole approach to safeguarding European sites. More widely it should help to ensure a stronger application of the Habitats Directive that would be more in line with a precautionary approach to planning development.
 
This challenge comes in the year of ‘Natural Scotland’. It also comes soon after the National Geographic magazine listed the Cairngorms as the only British entry in the Top 50 of the World’s Last Great Places, along with such locations as Madagascar and the  Gobi desert.
Legal action is serious and expensive: we need to urgently raise £30,000 to cover the cost of the court hearing.
 
All donations are most gratefully received and can be made by clicking the 'Donate' button to the right. For more information please visit safeguardthecairngoms.org.uk

 

Cairngorms-An-Camas-Mor-01

An Camas Mòr - Site Of Proposed 1500 House New Town Development

 

The treasured landscapes and wildlife of the Cairngorms need your help. Developers are planning a whole new town and several  large housing estates in sensitive areas in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. BSCG has joined with the Cairngorms Campaign and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks to challenge this. We are appealing an important point of law in the September 21st  2012 Opinion  of Judge Lord Glennie that related to these potentially damaging proposals.

We and our QC respectfully believe that Lord Glennie misinterpreted the terms of the European Habitats Directive relating to the 'appropriate assessments' of Natura 2000 sites.If we win this appeal, which is being heard on March 12th 2013,  it will be a significant judgement that should force the Cairngorms National Park Authority to revise its whole approach to safeguarding European sites. More widely it should help to ensure a stronger application of the Habitats Directive that would be more in line with a precautionary approach to planning development. 

This challenge comes in the year of ‘Natural Scotland’. It also comes soon after the National Geographic magazine listed the Cairngorms as the only British entry in the Top 50 of the World’s Last Great Places, along with such locations as Madagascar and the  Gobi desert.Legal action is serious and expensive: we need to urgently raise £30,000 to cover the cost of the court hearing.

All donations are most gratefully received and can be made by clicking the 'Donate' button to the right. For more information please visit www.safeguardthecairngorms.org.uk