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Boat of Garten working group makes good progress

28th February 2012

Good progress is being made in addressing the issues around housing, recreation and conserving capercaillie in the National Park village of Boat of Garten.

At a meeting on 27 February 2012 the working group, which was set up to find a solution to the need for affordable housing in the village, discussed a programme of work that it’s hoped will result in some affordable homes, high quality recreation opportunities in the woods and reduced disturbance to capercaillie in the woods.

The working group is made up of members of the community, the main landowner, the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), The Highland Council, a housing association and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

In November 2011, a planning application to build more than 70 homes in the village was refused principally due to the unacceptable risk of harm to capercaillie – one of Scotland’s most threatened species. The Cairngorms National Park is home to around 80% of the UK population of capercaillie. Research carried out at the time showed the woods are very popular for recreation, particularly with dog walkers.  However some of the activity, especially that taking place off the paths, is having an adverse impact on capercaillie.

CNPA Sustainable Rural Director Murray Ferguson said: “We want to help find a solution that allows some new affordable houses to be built, for people to continue enjoying the woods and for the capercaillie to thrive.

“We’ve been working closely with the community about how they use the woods and what management measures they could support. We’ve proposed a practical set of measures to reduce the impact of existing recreational use on capercaillie to ensure their ongoing protection.

“We will be working with the estate, the community and SNH to develop these proposals and see them implemented. For this approach to work we need a great deal of cooperation.”

As part of the work Scottish Natural Heritage and the Cairngorms National Park Authority have carried out appraisals which suggest that up to 30 homes could be built in and around the village in a way that should not harm the capercaillie population.

SNH’s Cairngorms Operations Manager, Debbie Green, said: “We are committed to working to find a solution which will address the needs of locals in the area and takes the needs of this capercaillie stronghold into account.  Our thanks are also due to the local people who have come along to public meetings to tell us their thoughts on options for reducing disturbance to capercaillie in the woods.

“Their advice and support is crucial in making sure these measures will work effectively.”

Chair of the working group, Councillor Stuart Black said: “We are making real progress here and I believe by the Spring some of these measures will have been agreed and in place which should remove some of the barriers to getting affordable homes built for people in Boat of Garten.

“There’s still a long way to go and there will be further obstacles to overcome but with the backing of the research that has been carried out and a community as committed as Boat of Garten is, I’m confident we will see some affordable homes built in the village.”