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Homes for Boat of Garten given the go-ahead

21st June 2013

New homes in Boat of Garten can go ahead after the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) Planning Committee approved planning permission.

Meeting in Boat of Garten Community Hall today (Friday 21 June), members were pleased to agree to 30 new houses – including 10 affordable houses – plus two plots and associated roads, pavements etc. being built.

Speaking after the meeting, CNPA Planning Convener Eleanor Mackintosh, said: “This outcome today is the result of hard work and dedication by organisations in the National Park and the community so that houses to sustain the village and its school can be built without endangering our wildlife. This is not an easy feat and should be seen as a great example of what can be achieved by good planning.”

It has been challenging to find a site in Boat of Garten for new houses due to the environmentally sensitive nature of the area. In particular, the adjacent woods are home to capercaillie and the area is well used by locals and visitors for outdoor recreation.

In 2010, a Working Group was established by the CNPA to look at all of the issues and help find a solution. The Group, chaired by former Councillor Stuart Black, was made up of members of the community, the landowner, a housing association, Scottish Natural Heritage and The Highland Council and the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust.

The Group oversaw a complex package of work involving collation of new information, site options appraisal, assessment of housing need and community consultation.

Chair of the Working Group, Stuart Black, said: “I would like to thank the Working Group for their hard work to deliver housing for people in Boat of Garten while ensuring enhanced protection for the area’s wildlife, in particular capercaillie. I think what we have here today is a win-win situation and I’m sure that the effort by all those involved, to get us to this positive outcome today, can be held up as a good planning case study for others to look at and learn from.

“The community council have done a superb amount of work and I would personally like to thank them for that and also for asking me to continue to chair the Working Group even though I had retired from my role as a Highland councillor. I was delighted to be able to see the job through to the end. I would also like to thank the CNPA for facilitating the Working Group.”

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the CNPA worked together to advise the applicant what measures would need to be put in place so that people could continue to enjoy the woods without increased disturbance to capercaillie.

Debbie Green Cairngorms Operations Manager at SNH said: “We’ve always been keen to help find a solution for Boat of Garten that means people can continue to enjoy the woods, the community can benefit from additional housing, and capercaillie can continue to live and breed successfully nearby. Thanks to hard work from all involved we’re delighted that this proposal delivers on all three counts. Our distinctive native pinewoods and the famous birds and animals that live in them – like capercaillie and red squirrel – are a key asset underpinning the local tourism economy.”

The CNPA, SNH, the developer and Estate will all be involved in implementing and monitoring the following measures to minimise disturbance:

  • People will be requested to keep dogs on leads and stay on existing paths in certain areas of Boat of Garten woods during the bird breeding season of 1 April – 15 August each year.
  • Alternative off-lead dog walking routes will be promoted, improved or developed close to the village
  • A Ranger will be employed to advise members of the public along with new signage, leaflets and information packs for residents.
  • Native vegetation screening will be established alongside paths in certain areas of the woods:  and, until this growth matures, temporary screening put up before new housing is occupied
  • Construction access to the site will be limited and screened

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds had objected to the plans but withdrew their objection ahead of the meeting, stating that they were satisfied with mitigation measures and that the appropriate assessments had been carried out.