Warnings have been given about traffic accidents involving deer see http://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/highland-motorists-warned-of-deer-collisions-risk-1-3158107. It is not just deer that fall victim to busier roads and roads without safe crossing places. In Badenoch and Strathspey we have a special responsibility for some species that are vulnerable to road traffic accidents. These include wild cat which is critically endangered in Scotland and otters which are one of the features of the River Spay and Tributaries Special Area of Conservation. More frequently observed victims include red squirrel and badger. The full casualty list is long and includes brown hare, pine marten, stoats, toads and newts. Birds include adults and chicks of waders such as oystercatchers and lapwings. Young barn owls are particularly vulnerable to busy main roads see http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/infopage.html?Id=180. Also at night bats foraging near minor roads can also be hit.

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This year BSCG has raised concerns with politicians and senior CNPA staff about escalating road kills. For example we mentioned this problem to the parliamentary species champion for the brown hare, Alison Johnstone MSP, alerting her that there will be a predictable and potentially very serious, increased mortality risk for brown hares in the Carrbridge and Rothiemurchus - An Cama Mor area if controversial developments are allowed. Road mortality might be contributing to an apparent decline of brown hares in Badenoch that has already been reported to BSCG.

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Brown Hare on Carr Road near Carrbridge. Controversial new housing would add to traffic on this quiet and exceptionally wildlife-rich minor road, increasing the toll of wading birds, hares and other protected wildlife.

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Brown hare on the B970, the 'back road' between Boat of Garten and Coylumbridge. As well as brown hare, otter,red squirrel, badger,pine marten and even wildcat mortality will inevitably increase if the An Camas Mor new town development beside the B970 goes ahead.

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Otters and wildcat typically cross roads at night when they can be difficult for drivers to see unfortunately signs alone cannot eliminate mortality.

Female capercaillie. Ground nesting birds like capercaillie are vulnerable to opportunistic egg predators like crows and gulls, whose numbers may increase where extra food is provided by road kills.

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Research on barn owls has shown that road deaths are greatest on young owls and affect ones that have escaped mortality from other causes such starvation.

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Alison Johnstone, Parliamentary Species Champion for the Brown Hare, has described the U-turn as a "small victory".

BSCG welcomes the Scottish Government's confirmation that they have decided to exempt the planning system from a duty to contribute to economic growth.

On 11 September 2013 Fergus Ewing (local MSP and Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism) wrote in a letter to the Convener of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee Murdo Fraser MSP:

"we are minded to bring forward a Stage 2 amendment that will make it clear that the planning functions of a local authority are not subject to the proposed duty to contribute to sustainable economic growth."

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EconomyEnergyandTourismCommittee/Bills/Fergus_Ewing_response_130906_-_MurdoFraserMSP.pdf

BSCG, with others, has long been concerned at the Government's over-emphasis on economic growth.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP and Species Champion for the Brown Hare, commented that the duty could have become a "developer's charter" and that "this u-turn is a small victory."

 

SIR, – Your report (July 4) on controversial housing in the Cairngorms National Park quoted park board member and former Rothiemurchus head ranger Willie McKenna claiming that there was a desperate need for more housing in the area.

Highland Council figures show that 3,524 houses were built in Badenoch and Strathspey from 1976 to 2010 – on average, 100 houses a year. There were 1,291 houses built in Aviemore, which Mr McKenna represents.

Moreover, Highland Council's old policy of 25% of open market houses being “affordable" is similar to the national park's.

This policy, while it has enriched large building companies and estates, has also caused unsympathetic cramming and expansion of settlements and considerable environmental damage in what is now a national park.

If, as Mr McKenna claims, this policy has not solved the “desperate need" for housing for local people, is it not time to change the policy?

Adopting residency criteria, whereby new-build housing is available only to those with national park connections, reduces environmental damage and provides local people with housing they can afford.

Other national parks have adopted residency criteria. Why not Cairngorms?

Roy Turnbull, Torniscar, Nethybridge.

Postponing meaningful environmental assessment to the end of the planning process is deeply unhelpful to protecting sensitive species and habitats. This practice flies in the face of responsible forward planning and the first aim of the national park.
We will continue to stand up against damaging and excessive development in the national park.
We thank everyone who has supported us to date.

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Dear Sir,

In your report "Cairngorms homes 'will destroy woodland'", 27 June, you refer to the application to build 58 houses in School Wood, Nethy Bridge, which would destroy 12 acres of this ancient woodland in the Cairngorms National Park. You mention that Nethy Bridge Community Council "supports the application".

The constitution of the NB Community Council states that function of the Council shall be (inter alia) "to ascertain, co-ordinate and express" to the relevant authorities "the views of the community which it represents". This planning application is for the largest number of houses ever proposed in Nethy Bridge, yet the Community Council failed to convene a special public meeting whereby those community views could be ascertained. The Minutes of the May monthly meeting at which the Community Council decided "no objections" to this application, record "Members of the Public: None".

Moreover, during consultations over the National Park Local Plan in 2005, to which this application relates, the Community Council did convene a well-attended public meeting (12 January). That meeting voiced overwhelming opposition to large-scale housing developments in the village. Similarly, at a public meeting with the applicants in the presence of the National Park head of planning (5 April 2012), very considerable concerns were expressed over housing developments in School Wood. Notwithstanding those concerns, a community councillor then expressed "100 per cent support" for the proposal, apparently oblivious to the fact that his remit was to express the community view, not his private opinion.

I submit that the "support" provided by Nethy Bridge Community Council for this application merely reflects the private views of the half-dozen councillors involved. It is not a fair reflection of the views of the community that it is supposed to represent.

Yours sincerely,
Roy Turnbull
Nethy Bridge