Dear Sir,

I feel compelled to write to you about further potential development plans for the area of land in Grantown known as the Mossie.

Grantown residents will recall that the Mossie is a floodplain and a hot spot for a wealth of rare and interesting wildlife. The burns that run through it provide a foraging route for Otter.

Many residents and a local conservation group believe that the Mossie should be preserved as a nature reserve.

The furore surrounding the recent Muir Homes attempt to develop a large part of the Mossie with over 200 homes should still be fresh in the minds of the residents of Grantown.

With that in mind, you would think that the same application would still be reasonably fresh in the mind of Cairngorm National Park Planners, especially since they took a great deal of flack from local residents, conservationists and ultimately Scottish Government Reporters in connection with that matter.

SEPA sustained an objection to the development throughout that application on the basis that built development cannot take place on a functional flood plain. New development itself would not only be at risk, but it would add to the risk of flooding elsewhere.

As a direct consequence of Muir Homes’ failed application, National Park Planners zoned a large area of land to the south-west of Seafield Avenue for future housing development. This now forms part of the National Park adopted Local Plan.

It is worth pointing out that not one brick had been laid in this large virgin newly zoned area.

It may then come as some surprise that National Park Planners are quietly seeking opinion about zoning an area of land on the Mossie for future housing development. Park Planners are describing this as a ‘future opportunity’ and describing this process as an ‘informal consultation’.

The area of land in question is directly to the west of Mossie Road with the only conceivable access via the small cul-de-sac off Mossie Road.

Park Planners have officially sought the opinion of the Grantown and vicinity Community Council whose members did not feel that the Mossie should be developed for housing.

There was no such engagement for the residents of Grantown whose only hope of uncovering the information regarding this ‘informal consultation’ would have been to trawl through the Park’s website. It would seem that Park Planners have not felt the need to connect directly with the local communities which they serve.

Residents could be forgiven for thinking that there is sufficient land already zoned for future housing development in Grantown. It may be that some of your readership supports this ‘opportunity’, or perhaps your readers would prefer to see the Mossie safeguarded as a Nature Reserve. Whatever their opinion, they have a right to express it and should inform Park Planners before Friday 28th September 2012.

Comments can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or sent to Albert Memorial Hall, Station Square, Ballater, AB35 5QB.

More information, including maps, can be found on The National Park’s website: www.cairngorms.co.uk/park-authority/planning/local-plan/local-development-plan/

Name & address supplied.

Published in The Badenoch and Strathspey Herrald, 20 September 2012.

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Hairy wood ants on threatened sites in Strathspey.

The Scotsman newspaper has reported on 25 August 2012 that despite "tiger like ferocity and chemical weapons" wood ants including the hairy wood ant that are among key species on Scotlands nationwide biodiversity list are still no match against destructive development in Strathspey.

See The Scotsman.

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Wood ant nest near  proposed caravan site at Granish.

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Hairy wood ants on threatened sites in Strathspey.

Letter published in Strathspey and Badenoch Herald 23 August 2012

Dear Sir,

In promotional advertisements for Rothiemurchus Estate, Sir David Attenborough is quoted as describing this key location within the Cairngorms National Park as “one of the glories of wild Scotland”, (Strathy, 9th August).  The ‘An Camas Mor’ or ‘Cambusmore’  area of the estate  near the River Spey is known to be a remarkable site within Rothiemurchus. It falls entirely within a National Scenic Area and supports priority habitats and priority species.  It includes stands of trees on the Ancient Woodland Inventory and lies near to sensitive European Conservation sites. The site lies within one of the highest ranked important areas for invertebrates in the Cairngorms area and is a home to protected wildlife.

An Camas Mor, Rothiemurchus
An Camas Mor, Rothiemurchus.

On the one hand,  Rothiemurchus estate proudly advertises glorious wild countryside. On the  other hand, ACM LLP, whose partners are the laird of the estate and his son, is pushing  to secure permission for an entire new town of 1500 houses at An Camas Mor. The controversial position adopted by the Cairngorms National Park Authority has been to give strong support to this proposal.

The Chief Executive of the CNPA, Jane Hope, has told readers (May 24) that a large new development at ACM would “take the pressure off the countryside” i.e. would take the pressure off  for developments in other parts of the National Park, the pretence being that if the Strath had a new town there would not be need for so many other developments elsewhere.

However, this claim is flawed and unreasonable. Firstly, An Camas Mor is itself prime quality countryside. Secondly,  there is no evidence that the pressure for development elsewhere has been relieved: quite the contrary.

It is lamentable that in a key area of the Cairngorms National Park one of Attenborough’s glories of wild Scotland is under assault, whilst his name is apparently being used to suggest otherwise.

Yours sincerely,

Roy Turnbull (Vice-convener, Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group)

On Sunday 22 June BSCG discovered that a New National Park Plan with a a forward by Minister for the Environment and Climate change has been posted on the CNPA website.
The Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group has commented on this:-
"Responsible planning in National Parks should be one of the foremost methods by which landscapes, habitats and species are protected. The quality of Scotland’s natural environment is fundamental to people’s livelihoods and quality of life.
We are concerned that aspects of the consultation process were flawed, ignoring some serious concerns about safeguarding the natural and cultural heritage and giving insufficient attention to national interests. It is wrong if many of those making the effort to respond to the consultation end up concluding that the process was a ‘stitch up’ from the start, with short term thinking taking undue precedence. We do not see the minister’s expressions of approval for the consultation process as reflecting the experience of our community group.
We are concerned that this document is devoid of serious targets properly reflecting the statutory aims of the park and that this deficiency will open the way to further damaging development.
We and others have queried why the National Park Authority has launched into producing a new National Park Plan before the first plan had run its course or the out of date 2002 Cairngorms Biodiversity Action Plan has been updated. Certainly the second park plan with its shortened horizons appears depressingly devoid of tangible long term targets. Pretty pictures and fine words are one thing but for a key document like this to be thin on solid commitments cannot bode well for the interests of the public, our natural heritage or Scotland’s international reputation."

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On 22 June BSCG discovered that a New National Park Plan with a a forward by Minister for the Environment and Climate change has been posted on the CNPA website.

The Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group has commented on this:-

"Responsible planning in National Parks should be one of the foremost methods by which landscapes, habitats and species are protected. The quality of Scotland’s natural environment is fundamental to people’s livelihoods and quality of life. 
We are concerned that aspects of the consultation process were flawed, ignoring some serious concerns about safeguarding the natural and cultural heritage and giving insufficient attention to national interests. It is wrong if many of those making the effort to respond to the consultation end up concluding that the process was a ‘stitch up’ from the start, with short term thinking taking undue precedence. We do not see the minister’s expressions of approval for the consultation process as reflecting the experience of our community group. 

We are concerned that this document is devoid of serious targets properly reflecting the statutory aims of the park and that this deficiency will open the way to further damaging development. 

We and others have queried why the National Park Authority has launched into producing a new National Park Plan before the first plan had run its course or the out of date 2002 Cairngorms Biodiversity Action Plan has been updated. Certainly the second park plan with its shortened horizons appears depressingly devoid of tangible long term targets. Pretty pictures and fine words are one thing but for a key document like this to be thin on solid commitments cannot bode well for the interests of the public, our natural heritage or Scotland’s international reputation."

The following letter  draws attention to a  clear breach of trust by the CNPA
it was published in the Strathy on 24 May 2012

The following letter  draws attention to a  clear breach of trust by the CNPA. It was published in the Strathy on 24 May 2012.

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CNPA Consultation document:

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Letter published in the Badenoch and Strathspey Herald 10 May 2012:

Sir,
Recently the Cairngorms National Park Authority were unanimously minded to approve a major development for a large retail outlet in Aviemore for which there is no reference in their local plan or any detailed associated 'Appropriate Assessment' or strategic assessment of environmental impacts, despite its proximity to a European Conservation Site. The proposal the CNPA supported conflicts with their own Policy 5 on Biodiversity and with the founding National Park legislation that gives legal primacy to the 1st aim of the Park where there is conflict with other aims. Further, the planning conditions do not follow best practice and, in terms of Scottish law, the CNPA have apparently breached their legal Biodiversity Duty.

Despite all this, and not to mention significant unaddressed concerns raised by Architecture + Design Scotland, senior CNPA board member, David Green, is quick to confidently conclude that the CNPA has achieved a "sustainable outcome as befits a National Park" (Strathy 'Park Talk' May 2).

northern-damselfly

Northern damselfly - Coenagrion hastulatum coenagrionidae

One of the environmental impacts of the Tesco superstore is the complete destruction of the former Santa Claus land lochan that for over a century has been known as a breeding site for one of our rarest damselfies, the Northern damselfly. This beautiful insect is restricted in the UK to only some 35 sites since it appears to require very specific conditions. It has its stronghold in the Cairngorms and is classed as 'endangered' in the UK because it faces a 'very high risk of extinction in the near future'. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the species that Scottish Ministers have listed as of principal importance for conservation in Scotland and, being on the Scottish Biodiversity List, is a treasure for which the CNPA has national legal responsibilities. In addition, this pool has been assessed as of the highest conservation value and supports a wealth of other wildlife, including rarities.

The CNPA have proposed translocating the damselfly and other wildlife to a different site. Rightly, the CNPA themselves recognise that such a move would be experimental and there is no guarantee of success. Such an operation has not been tried before, little is known about the northern damselfly, it has characteristically low populations at its breeding sites and the CNPA do not know whether an appropriate pond and surrounding habitat exists or could be created. If the CNPA seriously want a successful outcome they should have ensured best practice is carefully applied. But rather than maximise the chances of success, the CNPA's planning conditions fail to ensure best practice and do not follow national policy on translocations. This policy requires that the new population is monitored over several generations - that is several years - in order to assess the outcome of the translocation. It seems to BSCG particularly irresponsible that the CNPA have apparently not stipulated that the original lochan must be safeguarded until the translocation is known to have been successful.

Like the lochan, the Milton or Aviemore Burn that runs beside the Tesco site also has an unusually high conservation value. Tesco's own ecologists have reported that this burn supports the Northern February red stonefly. This rarity now occurs nowhere in the world other than certain parts of Scotland. We have an exceptional responsibility for this fascinating species, yeits existence and its vulnerable status.

It is time that the CNPA started to appreciate that poor planning is particularly unacceptable in a National Park. The 'air brushing out' of conflicts with the natural heritage and the failure seriously to address specific environmental concerns is a sure road to environmental deterioration.

Gus Jones
(Covener Badenoch and Strathspery Conservation Group)

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