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Approvals for wildcat and whisky projects at Planning Meeting

25th September 2020

Wildcats and whisky were on the agenda for the Cairngorms National Park Authority Planning Committee today (Friday 25 September). A set of new enclosures at the Highland Wildlife Park to support a breeding programme to save Scottish Wildcats and a whisky tasting bothy at Glenlivet were both given the go ahead.

Scottish Wildcats are on the brink of extinction and this new facility at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland owned facility near Aviemore, is required to establish a breeding programme to boost their numbers as part of the LIFE funded Wildcat reintroduction project.

This development – a first for the UK – will provide facilities for breeding, veterinary care, remote monitoring and training with the aim being to eventually release the Wildcats into the Cairngorms National Park.

Planning Officer Katie Crerar recommended the application for approval. Addressing members at today’s online meeting she said: “The development is perfectly acceptable in this location with the style and purpose of the project being compatible with what is already happening at the Highland Wildlife Park. It is a first for the UK and is the basis for this ambitious conservation effort to save the Scottish Wildcat from extinction.”

CNPA Planning Committee members were fully in favour of the development, which will hopefully be ready in time to ensure that kittens reared earlier this year can enter the breeding programme at the Wildlife Park this winter.

An application from Chivas Brothers Ltd for a whisky tasting bothy to enhance their visitor offering at the nearby Glenlivet Distillery was also approved despite concerns about the impacts such a development would have on the Dark Sky Park. A previous application was withdrawn in October last year with this new proposal now in a different location.

The aim of the bothy is to cater for small groups who want a special whisky tasting experience with no more than four tours per day involving a maximum of 10 people and no overnight stays.

Planning Officer Emma Bryce outlined the proposals: “In August 2019 an application was submitted for a new tasting lodge experience at Glenlivet which attracted numerous objections. However, the submission we have before us today is different and an improvement on the original proposal. The building has been relocated with the developer also amending the design due to concerns raised in relation to the impact on the Dark Sky Park.

“Our own CNPA Landscape Adviser is now satisfied the proposed location of the bothy is less prominent in terms of key viewpoints than was previously proposed. The design is good and there has been a significant attempt made to minimise the light levels so that there is no adverse effect on the special landscape quality of the dark skies.”

CNPA Planning Committee Convener, Eleanor Mackintosh said: “I had grave concerns about this whisky bothy when I first saw the plans last year, however, I can see that the applicants have gone to great lengths to relocate the bothy and reduce lighting levels to allay fears about the impact on the Dark Sky Park. I do welcome this project, which is supported by our policies in terms of economic growth within the tourism and leisure sector.”

To read the planning papers in full please go here.