Judy Murray’s Dunblane tennis centre may ‘threaten’ rare birds

The elusive corncrake is one of Scotlands rarest birds. Picture: Flickr

The elusive corncrake is one of Scotlands rarest birds. Picture: Flickr

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JUDY Murray’s plans for a multi million pound tennis and golf centre in the countryside near her sons Andy’s and Jamie’s home town of Dunblane would threaten a local population of corncrakes, according to a submission to the public inquiry into the proposals.

Malcolm Allan, a former chairman of the community council in the neighbouring town of Dunblane and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, said that the land at Park of Keir, Dunblane, where Judy wants to build the centre as a “bricks and mortar legacy” of her sons’ tennis success, had been “greensward” for centuries.

He said it was home to wildlife including roe deer and red squirrels, and also contained an unexcavated ancient fort, which should be left undisturbed.

In a written submission, he added: “Exceptionally rare are corncrakes, always known in the Carse of Lecropt, migrating to the Western Isles [and] heard by local farmers.”

The elusive corncrake is one of Scotland’s rarest birds that winters in Africa and breeds in the summer in Scotland.

The shy, pigeon-sized birds mainly stay hidden among tall vegetation, and are much more often found by hearing their distinctive ‘crex-crex’ call, than actually seen.

READ MORE: Judy Murray defends tennis centre plans at public inquiry

Claims by Mrs Murray’s planning consultant - who said that her proposal would bolster rather than harm the Green Belt between the town towns - were questioned by the inquiry Reporter, Tim Brian.

John Handley, a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute who gave evidence for the Park of Keir Partnership which includes Mrs Murray, said that the plans would provide “a more robust and permanent landscaped buffer” through the inclusion and establishment of a planned new country park, in addition to a six-hole trainer golf course.

Mr Brian asked: “Can you tell me why a buffer is required? If the Green Belt is as it is, why do you need a golf course to make it permanent?”

Mr Handley said it had “previously been concluded” that the establishment of a golf course on the site would help prevent a linking-up of Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, which objectors fear.

He said: “The point I’m making now is that the proposal for a country park will further safeguard against the prospect of coalescence. It would give another layer of control, or safety net.”

Mr Brian asked: “Is another way of looking at it, is that there would be a reduced buffer - there’d be less of a gap between the two settlements that the Green Belt is trying to separate?”

Mr Handley replied: “I would accept that what we are proposing is built development in the Green Belt. What we are trying to do is to restrict that to the core area of the site, so at either end, the Bridge of Allan end and the Dunblane end, there remains a significant area of golf course, community woodland and community flatland.”

READ MORE: Exclusive: Judy Murray fears for her tennis legacy

Mr Handley said earlier that the planned development would be “appropriate, countryside-compatible and life-enhancing”.

It would include a 12-court indoor and outdoor tennis centre, the golf course, a “Murray” tennis museum, and the country park, funded by building 19 POUNDS 1.5 million homes and a “large” 150-bedroom hotel with gym and spa.

Mrs Murray’s opponents, who include Dunblane Community Council and pressure group “RAGE” (Residents Against Green Belt Erosion), will not now begin giving oral evidence until next week.

RAGE has hired an advocate, Maurice O’Carroll, to present their case.

Mr O’Carroll, whose fees are being paid by public subscription in Dunblane, protested about the length of time the inquiry is taking.

The inquiry, which is being held following rejection of Mrs Murray’s proposals by Stirling Council last year, continues on Monday.

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