Red squirrel find may halt Cairngorms housing plan
A MAJOR housing development in a Highland village could be halted, by red squirrels.
Planners at the Cairngorms National Park Authority pulled out of a meeting with the developer behind proposals for 117 houses at Carrbridge, near Aviemore, after learning of a significant number of red squirrel dreys on the site.
Aviemore & Highland Developments was granted outline planning permission for the development, despite strong local opposition.
An environmental survey submitted as part of the company's planning application failed to find a squirrel drey.
However, the site has since been acquired by Tulloch Homes, which carried out its own survey and found a "large number" of dreys, which it brought to the attention of the national park.
The situation has put the development in doubt, with the park authority now seeking a QC's opinion on whether or not it can go ahead.
A spokesperson for the park authority said: "We are currently waiting for the results of a natural heritage survey on the proposed site at Carrbridge, which was a condition of outline planning permission being granted.
"We are also taking legal advice about what balance we should aim to achieve between planning laws and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.
"Once this has been determined and after any other outstanding matters have been discussed with the developer, we shall make a recommendation for the planning committee of the Cairngorms National Park Authority to take."
A spokesman for Tulloch Homes said last night: "We want to work with Cairngorm National Park to make this much-needed housing development acceptable, while meeting the interests of the wildlife and habitat of the area."
Local conservationists believe there might be 46 dreys on the site. Dr Gus Jones, the convener of the Badenoch and Strathspey conservation group, said: "This is probably the first big test of the duties the 2004 act imposes on planning authorities. The legislation is tough and developers must learn to work with it."
He continued: "Dreys are dome shaped and made of twigs and lined with moss. Typically, they're the size of a small football and quite distinctive. You'd have to be blind to miss so many."
Red squirrels are legally protected and classed by the World Conservation Union as "near threatened".
They are also an official Scottish biodiversity list species. They have been wiped out in most of England, but they continue to thrive in the Highlands.
Dr Kate Adamson, the secretary of Carrbridge Community Council, said she was "keeping her fingers crossed" the squirrels would stop the development.
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