Scotsman letter Roy Turnbul 13March 2020

Situated beside the forest village of Nethy Bridge, School Wood is an outstanding ancient woodland supporting exceptional biodiversity. Following a visit to the wood in 2002 the late Dr Adam Watson, ecologist and authority on the Cairngorms, recognised its high value. He commented in the press, “Nethy Bridge is exceptionally fortunate in having this incredible amenity and educational site beside the village. It would be tragic if this irreplaceable asset were damaged by .. housing development”.

With others, BSCG has been campaigning to save School Wood from development threats since 1993. So far no development has taken place. Appreciation of the value of the site has grown. Reflecting this, in their next Local Development Plan the National Park Authority has removed the area allocated for 15 houses in School Wood “due to significant natural heritage constraints”. BSCG has welcomed this. However the new Plan is not due to be formally adopted until later this year. Unfortunately, the present Plan still includes a housing allocation.

The above letter by Roy Turnbull emphasises that it is now more unacceptable than ever to propose this precious ancient woodland as a building site.

This letter was published in The Scotsman on 13 March 2020.

Dr Adam Watson in 2002 in School Wood NethybridgeAdam Watson in School Wood in 2002.

jan 2020

BSCG Vice Convener Roy Turnbull commented after the vote, "For too long, woodlands, and other sites important for nature in the Cairngorms National Park, have been regarded by unscrupulous landowners as a means of making money via development, and the Park planners have not done enough to protect such sites. This welcome decision by the CNPA Planning Committee helps to establish the principle that such high-quality nature sites should be safe from development."

Lettoch Road Wood site visit 24 Jan 2020 BSCG


At their public planning meeting on the 12 October the Cairngorms National Park Board resoundingly rejected the application for artificial ski slopes at Cairn Gorm.

In arriving at their welcome decision, the National Park Board took time to quiz the applicant and listen to concerns of BSCG and Aviemore Business Association, all of whom gave presentations at the meeting.

The Press & Journal report indicates that the applicant, Natural Retreats, is considering its options.

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P & J article 13 October 2018

Visualisation of artificial ski slopes

Visualisation of artificial ski slopes 

View from proposed artificial ski slope site oct 2018 1800

View from proposed artificial ski slope site 

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View from proposed artificial ski slope site

Questions are being asked about how Cairngorms National Park Planners have recently recommended approval for a costly proposal for artificial ski slopes on the hill. It is shocking (but convenient for the developer) that the public screening opinion claims this project would not have any “significant effects on the environment”. Envisaged in the high altitude development over a footprint of 2.1 ha is the stripping of thousands of cubic metres of peat. No mitigation is possible for the habitats to be destroyed. These support valued wildlife including mountain hare, mountain bumblebee, plants like interrupted clubmoss, heathland with natural bearberry, juniper and lichens that with the natural landform has developed since the end of the last Ice Age. The compensation proposed (of some tree and shrub planting) is arguably what should already be happening on responsibly managed land in public ownership in such a special area in the heart of a National Park.

Apparently requiring £1.5M of public money, this climate-unfriendly project is plainly highly unsustainable in financial, social and environmental terms . If in the teeth of considerable community opposition this project is consented it has enduring reputational implications and would illustrate subservience to a speculative unreasonably optimistic and disastrously ill-informed vision.

If the CNPA Board approve this project it opens the way to a new wave of major environmental and landscape damage on the hill.

Today ( 11 Oct 2018) the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald reported the planners recommendation for approval of the controversial project "is despite growing protests that it will damage the environment and become a white elephant".

18 10 11 Artificial Ski Slope Strathy

Strathspey & Badenoch Herald ( October 11 2018, extract from page 4 )


The exposed high altitude site has an extensive footprint in a sensitive location with multiple potential significant environmental effects

BSCG is among Highland environmental groups that have written objections to Highland Council Planners over controversial proposals for a golf course on designated land at Coul Links in East Sutherland. If approved this seriously damaging development would set a precedent of allowing development that conflicts with sustainable development. Below is a personal letter of objection from Roy Turnbull that draws attention to two issues that illustrate the far-reaching repercussions raised by the Coul Links proposal.

wet windyquote Coul sn

Dear Sir,

17/04601/FUL - Development of 18 hole golf course, erection of clubhouse etc.

Land 1700M NW of Embo Community Centre School Street, Embo.

 I write to add my strong objection to the above proposed development.

 I have studied the detailed objections you have already received from numerous informed and knowledgeable sources concerning the damaging impacts this proposed development would have upon the exceptional and valued flora and fauna and landscape of this important designated site. Whilst there is little point in my repeating all this information, which I trust you will study and absorb, I would like to draw your particular attention to just two issues:

 1. From the Scottish Wildlife Trust objection, dated 27th October 2017:

 “assessing the impact of the development is not simply a case of totalling up the areas of the various habitats which the footprint of the development will cover. The creation of a golf course, and aspects of its management such as drainage, irrigation, seeding, cutting, fertilising, application of pesticides, water abstraction from boreholes and resultant impacts such as changes to grazing, and disturbance, will fundamentally affect the operation of these natural processes which have created the sand dune features which are a notified feature of the Ramsar site.

The development will freeze this dynamism over time and steadily impoverish the biodiversity to make it a very ordinary place, like most of Scotland’s links golf courses (lawns and scrub). Construction and management will fundamentally affect these processes of seasonal and longer term changes”

 This, it seems to me, gets to the crux of the matter. It is simply not possible to make large scale alterations to the functioning of a complex, dynamic, living system of sand, water, plants, animals and fungi without fundamentally degrading and unravelling the whole system. A similar warning was sounded during consultations over the Menie golf course development near Aberdeen, and the recent announcement by Scottish Natural Heritage that de-designation of the SSSI there is under consideration because of the damage to its special features following development emphasises the validity of such warnings. I submit that the developers should heed the advice contained in both the SNH and SEPA objections: to consider an alternative site on agricultural land.

 2.  Please assess this proposal beyond just the confines of local concerns. There is widespread and increasing global concern about the continuing incremental loss of biodiversity and of natural and semi-natural habitats. For example, a very recent global study by the University of Queensland, Australia ] states,

 “Despite their importance, wilderness areas are being destroyed at an alarming rate and need urgent protection with almost 10 per cent being lost since the early 1990s. Their conservation is a global priority.”

Approving this application would damage Scotland's reputation for looking after its own natural and semi-natural areas, and weaken its voice on the global stage at a time when stopping the loss of such areas is an urgent necessity. As one of the wealthier and better educated countries on Earth, Scotland should be leading by example.

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site of a proposed new town in the cairngorms National Park bscg

Sunday Herald,17 September 2017:

FAR more people oppose building a new town in the Cairngorms National Park than are in favour, according to a new opinion poll.

More than 44 per cent of those questioned said they opposed a plan for 1,500 new houses at An Camas Mòr, near Aviemore. Just under 25 per cent said they supported the idea, and the same proportion said they neither opposed or supported the plan.

The development was granted planning permission in principle by the Cairngorms National Park Authority last month, despite prolonged and fierce opposition from conservation groups. The scheme was initially approved in 2014, but lost a major financial backer.

The Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group (BSCG), which opposed An Camas Mòr, commissioned pollsters Survation to assess views on the development. More than 1,000 people across Scotland were interviewed between September 8-12 .

BSCG’s convener, Dr Gus Jones, said he was encouraged by the poll results. “There is considerable opposition to this large-scale development in a national park,” he told the Sunday Herald.

“An Camas Mòr is a controversial and damaging development in a highly prized and sensitive area, and requires large-scale public funding. We hope the results of this poll will encourage the Scottish Government to think again.”

The Cairngorms Campaign argued that supporting the new town went against the will of the Scottish people. The park authority had issued approval “without due regard for the natural and cultural heritage of the area, which should be their first aim,” said the campaign’s Helen Geddes.

Cairngorm park authority’s chief executive, Grant Moir, pointed out that developers still had to conclude a legal agreement. “The applicant has to comply with a suite of conditions and supply a significant amount of detail to the authority’s planning committee on these conditions before any work can begin on An Camas Mòr,” he said.

Article link:

Poll question:

There are plans to build a new town in an area of the Cairngorms National Park. The area in question is a National Scenic Area and close to designated conservation sites. The new town is proposed to consist of around 1500 houses and would be about the size of the largest existing settlement in the Cairngorms National Park. There are plans to build a new town in an area of the Cairngorms National Park. The area in question is a National Scenic Area and close to designated conservation sites. The new town is proposed to consist of around 1500 houses and would be about the size of the largest existing settlement in the Cairngorms National Park. Supporters of the proposed new town say that the planned community on the site would be ‘appropriate for its outstanding location and delivers much needed new homes and commercial space locally.’ Opponents say that the plans would be over-development that would damage the special landscape and wildlife that the National Park was set up to protect.To what extent do you support or oppose the building of this new town in the Cairngorms National Park?

Strongly support / Somewhat support / Neither support nor oppose / Somewhat oppose / Strongly oppose / Don't know.