CHANNEL 4 will take over a Lochaber woodland for a year-long reality TV survival show despite local objections.
Producers have won a battle to film Eden, a year-long documentary about 24 skilled people selected to live together in the wilderness, at the Ardnamurchan estate.
We don’t want to see anything being built there that shouldn’t be there. Apart from that I am remarkably relaxed about this. It will provide a good source of nutrition for the local midgesCouncillor Donnie Kerr, Highland Council
The participants - who will be filmed round the clock - will be expected to hunt for food, grow crops and build their own shelter.
The series will follows in the footsteps of the BBC series Castaway 2000 which made a star of presenter Ben Fogle.
However a number of people living nearby the site had submitted strong objections to Highland Council over the plans.
They said the filming could spoil an area of natural beauty, cause pollution and damage to wildlife and have a negative impact on the local economy.
However, at a committee meeting today councillors voted in favour of the application by KEO Films, the production company commissioned by Channel 4 to create the show.
Councillor Andrew Baxter, of the Highland Alliance Party, said: “I am prepared to accept this application due to the transitory nature of it.
“I have a wry smile when the applicant says it is a documentary. Let’s face it, it is a reality TV show.
“But I am sure people across the country will watch it with interest and it will help tourism in the area.”
His colleague councillor Donnie Kerr said: “My only concern is that it is an area of natural beauty and we don’t want to see anything being built there that shouldn’t be there.
“Apart from that I am remarkably relaxed about this. It will provide a good source of nutrition for the local midges.”
The site lies on the sparsely populated Ardnamurchan Estate, northwest of Acharacle, a region famed for its natural beauty and sporting appeal.
Two locations on the 600-acre site, between Cul na Croise beach and a conifer forest further inland, have been identified as potential settlement areas for participants in the show.
Two dozen volunteers will build their own remote community within the estate, where they will hunt for their own food, build their own shelter and live self-sufficiently for 12 months.
As well as the settlements, eight portable cabins for the show’s production team will be built along with a car park built.
Margaret Green, of Dal-Ghorm House, a property which lies adjacent to the forest, said: “It is not a wilderness, but it is really not suitable for people to live there, because it is forestry.
“I am concerned about what will happen to the wildlife, and that there will be pollution.”
Another objector, Pamela Powell, said: “I am very concerned about the environmental impact of this project as birds nest on the beaches and in the dunes and various species of mammals and insects are present which, along with the plant life, make up a small but important ecosystem.
“This project is not in fact taking place in a very remote wilderness as the publicity suggests. It is only a few kms down a good track to Acharacle village and there are houses even closer than that.
“A fence is already going up which, despite what has been claimed, will restrict access between the beaches.
“These beaches are visited regularly by locals and tourists without the scale of environmental damage likely to be caused by a group living and working there for a prolonged period of time.”
A separate decision on whether the film-makers can restrict roaming access to the site is due to be made by Scottish Ministers.
Channel 4 said that Eden sought to set itself apart from Castaway 2000, which was filmed on the Outer Hebridean island of Taransay, by allowing the participants to film themselves.
Liam Humphreys, head of factual entertainment at Channel 4, said: “It promises to be a bold idea, not least because of the scale of the concept but also because as programme makers we have absolutely no idea what will happen.”