We have asked our candidates for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey for statements on the environment prior to our Environmental Hustings on Friday 3rd April 7pm in Aviemore. This is the first reply, which is from Edward Mountain, Scottish Conservative:

"As a farmer and rural surveyor I have a very keen interest in how we use our environment. Prior to the meeting I would like to highlight just two local issuses:

Water:
The Spey is a hugely important asset that all those within the Strath rely on. It not only provides our household needs but it also provides water for the distilleries and agriculture and it is also a recreational resource. We should also not ignore the fact it is home to many iconic species including salmon, pearl water mussels, otters, kingfishers to name but a few. However the management of this river is conducted in a piecemeal way, by at least three different agencies, that has resulted in the habitats and water quality and quantity being diminished.

Energy:
Our green energy policy in Scotland is deeply flawed. Sadly political posturing has resulted in a policy that often benefits the few but burdens the majority. Basing a policy that relies on wind factories is also deeply hypocritical and damages our landscape. We must review the policy to ensure safety of supply and a balance of provision.

I believe there are many other issues and look forward to discussing these on 3rd April. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Best wishes

Edward Mountain"

Letter in Strathy 22 May 2014.

Dear Sir,

Interesting differences have emerged between the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Highland Council over the application to build 58 houses in School Wood, Nethy Bridge.

The CNPA, in its Landscape Report, dismisses the development site as “pine plantation woodland”, whereas the HC Forestry Report correctly states, “ the site is contained within woodland which is listed in the Ancient Woodland Inventory as Long Established semi-natural origin” and continues, “This is sadly not a development which would co-exist with woodland, this is a development at the expense of woodland”.

With the lack of any self-build plots and the cramped nature of the housing proposed it is hardly surprising that Nethy Bridge Community Council reports, "There is now a greater antipathy in the village towards the development as it currently stands."

Representations can be made until 29th May to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. See: http://www.eplanningcnpa.co.uk/online-applications/ with 2013/0119/DET in the search box.

Roy Turnbull, Torniscar, Nethy Bridge.

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Sir – Your correspondent Ian Miller, (Letters, 27 February), repeats some of the many misleading or false statements put about by those determined to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-induced global warming.

He starts by asserting that “the Antarctic is cooling”. That is not correct. The Antarctic Peninsular is warming rapidly (nearly 3C so far); Western Antarctica is warming at about 0.1C/decade (Steig et al, Nature, 2009) and the vast East Antarctic has experienced slight cooling in places and warming elsewhere. The overall trend is one of slight warming.

Mr Miller continues by misnaming the Intergovernmental (not International) Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and wrongly attributes to it responsibility both for global temperature records and “computer models”, when the IPCC has no research function and merely collates and reports the findings of others.

Mr Miller also belittles the (correct) average global temperature increase thus far (0.8C).

But projections from the IPCC warn that such temperatures could rise almost a further 5C by the end of this century if we continue with the unrestricted burning of fossil fuels.

For comparison, average global temperatures during the depth of the last glaciation, when Strathspey was buried in several thousand feet of ice, were just 5C cooler than at present. A rise of 5C would be catastrophic.

Mr Miller is also misinformed in claiming that “World temperatures have not risen in line with ... computer models and have remained broadly flat”.

Firstly, there is no statistically significant evidence that the long-term trend of rising global temperatures experienced since the mid-1970s has changed. Secondly, unpredictable factors like solar variations, volcanic eruptions and El Nino/ La Nina episodes are well able to explain short term variations in surface temperatures. Thirdly, over 90 per cent of the extra heat caused by the increase in greenhouse gases is absorbed in the oceans, which exhibit continued warming.

Mr Miller is also confused about the terms “global warming” and “climate change”. The former refers to the increase in heat in the atmosphere/ land surface/oceans, whereas the latter refers to the corresponding change in climate.

If Mr Miller thinks the term climate change is new, he might ponder the meaning of CC in the IPCC, founded in 1988.

Mr Miller is also incorrect to claim that human actions cannot affect the jet stream, alterations in which are thought to be responsible for the UK’s recent extreme weather events.

The jet stream results from the temperature gradient between the Arctic and the tropics. Human caused warming of the Arctic has reduced this gradient and the unusual behaviour of the jet stream is thought to be the result.

Human-induced global warming is real, is continuing and is potentially very dangerous. No amount of confused denial can alter those facts.

Roy Turnbull, Torniscar, Nethy Bridge.

 looking-S-to-the-northern-settlement-boundary-of-Aviemore-from-the-Granish-proposed--go-kart-site-300
View looking South across the site proposed for a Go Kart development showing in the background the current Northern edge of the Aviemore settlement boundary that this development could help undermine.

Sir, Colin Bain (Strathy letters, January 16) has questioned whether a go-kart development at Granish could pave the way to unleashing further northward expansion of Aviemore beyond the present settlement boundary.

He cites land uses such as the nearby batching plant as deterrents. However, the farmland location is in attractive countryside, enjoys outstanding views, and is situated further from round-the-clock noise of the A9 than such upmarket developments as High Burnside where houses are being marketed at up to nearly half-a-million pounds.

When it comes to the decisions over the potential for future housing and landscaping in the Granish area, it seems likely to be the interests of other powerful players, not the views of Mr Bain, which will count.

The planning application document for the gokart proposal does not include Mr Bain’s name.

Rather, it shows that the landowner is Reidhaven Estate; the applicant is the Granish Farm Partnership represented by well-known developer Allan Munro; and the application form is signed by David Keith of Bracewell Stirling Consulting.

The same parties are involved in the nearby caravan site proposal at Granish, where the Cairngorms National Park Authority have approved reception, farm shop and manager’s accommodation, and 33 caravan pitches, etcetera.

All of these parties are involved in housing developments locally and they may well continue to press for further developments in sensitive countryside in the future.

Already Reidhaven Estate is pushing the Cairngorms National Park Authority to include new housing in Grantown on the Mossie in the new Local Development Plan, on an area where the town’s community council has expressed the desire to have a local nature reserve.

Yours etc, Gus Jones, Convener, Fiodhag, Nethy Bridge, PH25 3DJ

 

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Better Regulation of Hill Tracks - 10 December 2013

SIR, - An authoritative report, Track Changes, has reinforced calls for better regulation of bulldozed tracks in the countryside.

Following damage to rare wildlife resulting from operations associated with forest tracks in Strathspey, the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group has, with members of the Highland Biological Recording Group, shared concerns with the Cairngorms National Park Authority. It has long been recognised that such irreversible damage to nationally important biodiversity could be avoided more readily by returning to a system that ensures scrutiny through the planning process.

Experience shows that the most damaging effects of track construction proliferating on peat relate to drainage. Too often, even small-scale disturbance can have dramatic and long-term effects on the health of peatlands, as well as contributing to the emission of the carbon stored in the excavated peat.

The eye-opening range of case studies illustrated in Track Changes augments a large and longstanding body of evidence. This shows that the retention of automatic development rights for fanning and forestry and their de facto extension to the field-sports industry has led.to a rapid increase in detrimental impacts.

We salute the nine organisations who cormmissioned the report Track Changes that can be seen at http://www.scotlink.org/hilltracks/ and support the calls of their members. We also welcome the contribution of researchers and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, which for years has spoken against ill-considered hill tracks.

Gus Jones, convener, Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group, Fiodhag, Nethybridge .

Published Sunday 3rd November 2013 in Herald Scotland. Article link: Cosmetics chain Lush joins fight to safeguard Scots wildlife.

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IT'S best known for multi-coloured bath bombs, the waft of perfume up the High Street and being the source of last-minute stocking fillers - but now the hip cosmetics company, Lush, has got serious and joined a fierce court battle to protect Scotland's Cairngorms National Park from housing developers.

The £300 million chain, known for its handmade bath and body lotions, has donated £7000 to the legal war being waged against the Cairngorm National Park Authority (CNPA) by a local environmental group.

Lush, which has 830 stores in 51 countries, doesn't use animal fats in its products and also takes a stance against animal testing, performing tests on human volunteers instead.

The CNPA is backing plans by developers for nearly 2000 new houses within the park. They include a development at An Camas Mor near Aviemore, with up to 1500 houses over the next 20 years, plus 117 homes in Carrbridge, 300 in Kingussie and 40 in Nethy Bridge.

But the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group, backed by two other groups, say the developments will damage ancient pine forests, heathland and wildflower meadows, as well as threaten wildlife such as wildcats, red squirrels and capercaillie. They have been locked in a tense two-year legal struggle with the CNPA, which is now due to be heard in the Supreme Court in London next year.

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"Lush was shocked to hear of the large-scale development plans in this iconic, internationally important place," said the company's charitable giving manager, Rebecca Lush Blum, a veteran environmental campaigner who just happens to have the same name as her employers.

"The Cairngorms National Park is nationally loved and treasured, and is one of our last remaining wild spaces in the UK. We agree with the conservation group that this is inappropriate development in a national park." She argued that alternative sites were available for essential housing. "International and national conservation and wildlife laws must be upheld if they are to mean anything," she said. "If the Cairngorms are not safe, nowhere will be."

Lush, which has more than 90 stores across the UK and is run by millionaire Mark Constantine, saw its profits increase by £5m to £26.2m in 2012. It has previously backed a wide range of animal welfare, environmental and human rights campaigns, including the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison and anti-fracking protests.

The Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group said it was very grateful for the money, which would be a "real boost" for its legal campaign. "This is an important case for anyone who cares about the health of the Cairngorms and Scotland's natural world," said the group's convener, Gus Jones.

"When the CNPA welcomes big developers to fragile areas that support wildlife that should be cherished, someone has to stand up and object. We are outraged that the authority acts as the developers' friend and saddened that the battle to make it remember its conservation duties has been left to small local charities like ours."

The group's legal challenge arguing that the CNPA had failed to properly interpret European wildlife law was rejected by the Court of Session in Edinburgh in September 2012, and on appeal in July this year. But the group has now lodged another appeal at the Supreme Court in London.

The CNPA's director of planning, Murray Ferguson, was "extremely disappointed" that the case had again been appealed. "There have already been two court judgments, both of which resulted in the appellants' arguments being rejected," he said.

"Despite a cap on costs, this is proving costly to the taxpayer and in terms of staff time, however we will continue to defend the appeal robustly."

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