Cairngorms National Park

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Boat of Garten Statement

4th November 2011

The Cairngorms National Park Authority’s Planners have recommended that a planning application for 72 houses, 5 house plots and associated works at woods to the west of Boat of Garten is refused.

The case will be considered by the Planning Committee of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) at Boat of Garten Community Hall on Friday 11 November 2011.

The Application

This application by Davall Developments was considered by the Planning Committee on 7 January 2011 and it was decided to defer the application to allow the applicant the opportunity to further develop proposals to address the sensitivities surrounding the impact of the development on capercaillie which are protected under European law.

A total of 77 houses including infrastructure and play area are proposed: 45 private units, 5 of these being plots; 16 affordable houses for rent and 16 on a share equity bases. Permission is also sought for the principle of a school site adjacent to the Community Hall.

The planners’ report on 7 January 2011 had recommended refusal of the application for a number of reasons:

  • The proposal would result in a significant housing development on a site not identified for housing in the Cairngorms National Park Local Plan
  • The proposal failed to demonstrate that it would not result in unacceptable detriment to four areas known as Special Protected Areas (SPA) and the capercaillie population at Boat of Garten wood.
  • The proposal would result in unacceptable impact on the red squirrel population
  • The proposed layout, landscape and housing design of the development are inadequate
  •  Appropriate access arrangements to the Community Hall are not provided
  • The proposal is contrary to the first and third aims of the Cairngorms National Park. The contribution that the proposal may make to the fourth aim by the provision of affordable housing is outweighed by the adverse impact on the first aim

Capercaillie

Capercaillie is a species that is protected by the highest levels of European conservation legislation (Schedule 1 European Protected Species).

Under this legislation, their habitat is protected by Special Protected Area (SPA) designations at Kinveachy, Craigmore, Cairngorms and Abernethy. Although not designated, the Boat of Garten Wood is an important connection between these areas.

75% of all capercaillie in the UK are found in the woods of Strathspey.

Housing 

In 2006 an application to build on this site was turned down by the Reporter on appeal due to the risk to capercaillie population.

The site in question was removed as a housing allocation in the Cairngorms National Park Local Plan (2010), following the recommendation by the Reporter in the Local Plan Inquiry. The Reporter considered it to be an over allocation of land for housing taken together with the sensitive environmental nature of the site and its surroundings, specifically in respect of capercaillie.

We are very aware of the community’s strength of feeling on the need for affordable housing in Boat of Garten and following the decision in 2010 to adopt the Local Plan without the allocation, a working group was set up including members of the community to look at housing issues in Boat of Garten, including other potential sites which are currently being consulted on in the Cairngorms National Park Local Development Plan Main Issues Report (until 9 December 2011).

Assessment

Since the decision to defer on 7 January 2011, a significant amount of work has taken place and the CNPA with SNH have taken a constructive approach with the applicant:

  • Importantly, along with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), agreeing with the applicant a list of criteria that any mitigation proposals would have to meet to be successful and holding meetings with the applicant’s ecologist.
  • The applicants carried out survey and analysis of current recreational use of the woodlands. The findings provide data about the way people currently use the woods which, when considered with the likely additional use arising from the proposed development reinforce the need for effective mitigation.
  •  MacKenzie, Bradshaw Environmental Consulting (MBEC), working for the applicant, submitted a report at the end of September 2011 with proposed measures to mitigate the effect of the development. Assessments by CNPA and SNH concluded that the proposals do not give sufficient confidence that disturbance to capercaillie from recreation in the woods can be limited effectively. In summary, none of the criteria set out is fully met by the proposals submitted. 
  • SNH has maintained its objection because the development is likely to cause disturbance to capercaillie using the adjacent woodland. This is likely to have an adverse effect on capercaillie populations in four nearby Special Protected Areas.

Recommendation

It is recommended this application is refused for the same reasons given in the paper presented to the Planning Committee on 7 January 2011 (detailed above), the proposed measures in relation to the disruption to capercaillie not satisfactorily reducing the risk to this protected species.

This application brings to the fore the complex range of factors to consider in meeting the four aims of the National Park and enabling the right development in the right place. The planning report concludes:

“The issue regarding capercaillie is of paramount importance as the species enjoys the highest levels of protection afforded by European conservation legislation.  SNH and CNPA have a legal obligation to meet the conservation requirements of this species.  In this case, SNH object and the advice from CNPA specialist officers is that approval of this application should not be contemplated in the context of the risks to the species that have been identified.  This results in a clear recommendation of refusal.

“…attention is also drawn to the fact that the other reasons for recommending against the application remain valid.”

To view the recommendation which includes details about the proposal, consultation responses, impact on landscape, habitats and species; economic benefits and final conclusions click here.

Further comment and a statement will only be made once a final decision is reached. It will be possible to carry out interviews at the conclusion of the planning meeting on 11 November 2011 by arranging in advance with the CNPA Press Office on 01479 870534.