- Written by Gus Jones
- Category: Campaigns
- Published: 17 September 2017
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.
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.
- Written by Tessa Jones
- Category: Campaigns
- Published: 22 August 2016
BSCG is concerned about inappropriate development at Badaguish - Speyside Trust's outdoor development in the heart of Glenmore forest. The Cairngorms National Park Authority’s poor planning and ineffectual enforcement are causing damage to this prime area of Caledonian forest. Glenmore is one of Scotland's most important forests, yet the CNPA are approving further unnecessary and unsustainable developments within it. Major issues include numerous breaches of planning rules, provision of false information and pervasive haphazard development. The CNPA’s extreme unwillingness to say no to any proposal at Badaguish is resulting in major long term environmental degradation. This is eroding the special qualities of the national Park that the Authority is supposed to be conserving and enhancing.
The latest unanimous approval by the National Park Authority includes permission for a new car park and unsightly portaloos, neither of which are justified. The development will increase traffic on the road through Badaguish on a stretch already shared with cyclists, walkers and horse-riders. The CNPA did not even consider a traffic-free access route. On top of this, the CNPA have never mentioned the fact that new, additional car parking on public ground in Glenmore contravenes their own transport strategy for this core part of the National Park. So why didn’t the Board members simply reject the whole application? Are they under orders not to rock the boat?
As well as approving damaging development, the CNPA have failed to enforce mitigation measures they demanded as conditions for planning consents. For example, tree planting was supposed to mitigate for deforestation and impacts on capercaillie - but it is years late, only half done and much of it is already dead and dying. Meanwhile, the development area is a massive scar on the landscape that is visible from surrounding hills and will be that way for years to come. Furthermore, the predicted ‘likely significant impacts’ on one of Scotland’s most endangered birds, the Capercaillie, is effectively unmitigated by this failed planting.
The other main component of mitigation for capercaillie was the provision of signs asking people to stick to tracks, but these signs were never erected and for the best part of a year the CNPA didn’t enforce compliance. It was only on the day before the CNPA’s decisive meeting (19 August 2016), just hours after BSCG informed the Board of the absent signs, that these miraculously appeared (albeit with a typo).
Of even greater concern, the CNPA mislead the public and the Board by claiming a ‘Masterplan’ for developments at Badaguish existed. Such plans are a vital part of good planning and should prevent the type of chaotic development that plagues Badaguish. On three occasions the CNPA have claimed the existence of such a plan: in writing to BSCG, at the July planning committee meeting, and in documents for the decision meeting in August. The day before the August meeting, BSCG informed the Board that the ‘Masterplan’ that the CNPA planners were claiming existed contravened the standards for a Masterplan set by the Scottish Government’s guidance. Consequently, the CNPA planners had the embarrassing task of explaining that the document they had labelled as ‘Appendix 4 Masterplan’ was not actually a Masterplan ‘in the true sense of the word’. Only days before, the CNPA planner emailed BSCG stating that not only this document, but also 2 others, all constituted Masterplans for this site.
Scottish Government guidance on Masterplanning emphasises the importance of public involvement in Masterplanning. The document the planners tried to pass off as a Masterplan was made public only a week before the meeting and is called ‘Site Layout Plan January 2016’.
The record of the CNPA at Badaguish is worrying. They are approving haphazard and chaotic development, failing to enforce their own mitigation requirements, and attempting to mislead the public and the Board.
- Written by Roy Turnbull
- Category: Debates
- Published: 13 April 2016
On Monday, April 4, The Scotsman published an article giving the sporting estates' defence of muirburn - the burning of heather during grouse moor management.
On Friday, you published the results of research from Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities, indicating that adopting the latest "sustainable land use practices" would allow the locking away, or sequestration, of huge quantities of greenhouse gases in "farmland and natural wild spaces".
Thus we witness a nineteenth century indulgence confronted by twenty first century reality.
Recent muirburn next to woodland in the Cairngorms National Park, Spring 2016.
Grouse moors and deer stalking estates have this in common: they both minimise carbon sequestration.
Burning of grouse moors and over-grazing of stalking estates prevents woodland regeneration and devastates ground vegetation, whilst compacting soils and reducing their carbon retention capacities. These systems are the very opposite of "sustainable land use practices" if that sustainability has any reference to the aspirations of the recent Paris summit on climate change, to which our governments are committed.
The questions arise: How long, in a world divesting its money from fossil fuels and increasingly desperate about global warming, can these anachronistic and damaging land-uses prevail? When will the monetary value of sporting estates begin to plummet? How long will it take before the Scottish Government faces up to this reality and provides scientifically appropriate legislation to govern the demise and transition of Scotland's sporting estates?
Nethy Bridge, Inverness-shire
- Written by Gus Jones
- Category: Debates
- Published: 20 April 2015
Dick Balharry who attended the very first meeting of BSCG in 1975 deserves warm congratulations for the award of the prestigious Patrick Geddes medal for his outstanding contribution to conservation.
Presenting the award at a ceremony at Glen Feshie the Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society described Dick as “a relentless and passionate advocate for improving and protecting Scotland's natural landscapes" who "has influenced, advised, inspired and encouraged so many people and organisations".
The Sunday Herald (19 April 2015) reports on the award and mentions that Dr Adam Watson who spoke at BSCG’s inaugural meeting recalled vital work in Wester Ross undertaken by Dick on the poisoning of golden eagles that contributed to the banning of some persistent organochlorines pesticides in the 1970’s and 1980’s. BSCG members will also recall Dick’s important contribution to the establishment of Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve.
Referring to his speech the paper reports that Dick Balharry criticised landowners for erecting fences to protect native woodlands from marauding deer and commented this damaged the landscape, inhibited public access and deprived deer of shelter. The report is followed by an editorial headed 'Cairngorms talk highlights need for land reform'. This echos Dick’s views and comments "What's now crucial is that ministers introduce measures that oblige landowners to manage their estates for the public, good, rather than private gain."
- Written by Gus Jones
- Category: Debates
- Published: 03 April 2015
I first came to the Highlands as an 8 year-old boy on holiday and even then I knew that this was where I wanted to live. My wife Jackie and I moved with our kids to the Highlands many years ago. We uprooted our business and moved that here as well. This region is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we love living here.
It’s pleasing to say that I fulfilled that boyhood ambition when I moved here many years ago with my wife Jackie and our kids, uprooting our business and replanting it here, in the Highlands.
Serving my ward, Aird and Loch Ness, which is in this constituency, along with my work on the Cairngorms National Park Authority, has ensured I am constantly reminded of what is exceptional about where we work and live.
Most days I get to walk to work as the Leader of the Highland Council, crossing the bridge over the lovely River Ness on the way. My kids can walk to school, even when it’s raining. My ward of Aird and Loch Ness, which is the equivalent size of Luxembourg, has many wonderful sights to see as I crisscross it, visiting constituents and communities.
The reason I’m telling you all of this because the environment is very important to me. I think it is to everyone living in the Highlands. In my experience, most of us feel lucky to be living here. So the local environment and our wider responsibilities for the planet must be seen as a priority for us all.
I am grateful to be invited to the hustings organised by the Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group and thank them for this opportunity to focus on the environment. I like the view that we have two ears and one mouth, and we should use them in the same proportion. So I will be pleased to talk about my campaign policies, the Scottish Government’s progress on the environment, and my own initiatives, but I will be listening at the hustings and hoping to hear from the people how we can do more at all levels of government.
Of course, I will also be keen to discuss the Scottish Environment LINK’s Manifesto for the Westminster General Election.
It is important to say though, that I certainly believe politicians can and must do more on the environment. My Carbon Clever programme for example, which I initiated at Highland Council, focuses on the economy, energy, land use and resources, transport and engagement strategy. It is a growing success and proof that even in these tough times of austerity progressive policies can be delivered.
Follow @Carbon_CLEVER on Twitter for more information. In the meantime I look forward to meeting with all those who will be at the hustings and discussing such a vital campaign issue.
That’s why I initiated Carbon Clever
- Written by Roy Turnbull
- Category: Debates
- Published: 01 April 2015
Mature Scots pine burnt during grouse moor management, Dorback, Cairngorms National Park. Note also eroding soil and burnt ground vegetation.
You report (24 September) the pledge from the UN New York summit on climate change to stop natural forest destruction and restore hundreds of millions of acres of degraded land by 2030, in order to help sequestrate carbon in woodlands.
What will Scotland's response be to this welcome news?
In much of the world, such destruction and degradation of forests is caused by the desperately poor, seeking fuelwood or land to grow food.
In Scotland, it is caused by what might be called the desperately rich: burning land for grouse shooting, overgrazing it with red deer for deer stalking or, as in the Cairngorms National Park, building housing estates, often for holiday or second homes, in native woodlands. Scotland's uplands with respect to carbon sequestration (not to mention biodiversity, landscape or social justice) are a wasteland compared with what they could be.
Let us hope that this summit finally opens the eyes of the Scottish Government to the deplorable state of much of Scotland's land, in thrall as it is to sport shooting or speculative development interests.
How many of those hundreds of millions of acres of degraded land will be restored in Scotland? When will we stop destroying native woodlands for housing? What will be the Scottish Government's response to the New York Declaration on Forests?
The Scotsman 25 September 2014.