CONSERVATIONISTS have welcomed the refusal of controversial plans for 58 new homes in a Cairngorms National Park community.
The development at Nethy Bridge was turned down by the Park Authority after opponents argued the project would have a negative impact on the natural heritage of School Wood, an area of ancient woodland.
Conservation charities said the woods shelter some of the UK’s rarest, and strangest, wildlife.
Inverness-based Argyll Developments (Scotland) Ltd had applied to build 58 homes on two sites just off the village’s School Road and at Craigmore Road.
The current application was submitted in 2013 but the sites have been contentious for some time and have a long and complex planning history.
Planning Officer Fiona Murphy outlined to members the reasons for her recommendation to refuse the application.
She said: “We have to take account of the fact that Scottish Government Reporter has recently recommended that the School Road site is deleted from the Local Development Plan completely.
“For that reason, along with concerns around the negative impacts of the proposals on ancient woodlands, recreation and amenity, I recommend members refuse this application.”
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Planning Committee Convener Eleanor Mackintosh said: “This application certainly does have a complex history but regardless, there is no getting away from the fact that this development would have a significant negative impact on the natural heritage of the area. Nethy Bridge is a village that prides itself in its connection with nature and which boasts lots of wildlife on its doorstep.
“We have also approved changes to the new Local Development Plan allocating the Craigmore Road site for housing development. We will now work with the developers and the local community to see appropriate housing delivered on that site as soon as possible.”
Green shield moss, Buxbaumia viridis, is listed as endangered in the UK and has only been recorded at School Wood and a handful of other sites in Scotland.
The other locations include Rothiemurchus Forest and Abernethy Forest in the Cairngorms, Moniack Glen near Inverness and Kindrogan in Perthshire. The moss needs well-rotted wood to survive.
Members of the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s planning committee were shown green shield moss during a site visit to School Wood.
Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group has welcomed CNPA’s refusal of the planning application.
A spokesman said: “School Wood is a popular wood that is important for an amazing variety of rare and threatened wildlife.
“We are relieved that the Cairngorms National Park Authority has now recognised both the high ecological value of this irreplaceable ancient woodland site.”
Buglife Scotland said research has shown that Strathspey in general has almost double the number of rare species of insect in comparison to other areas in Scotland.
Alice Farr, of invertebrates conservation charity, said: “The Cairngorms is one of the best places in the UK for invertebrates, especially for species associated with mountains, woodlands and cooler climates.”
Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland added: “Ancient woodland is among the most precious and bio diverse habitats in the UK.
“It’s a finite resource, covering just one per cent of Scotland, which means that any further loss is unacceptable.”
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