Rare pine marten discovery could stall Scone housing plans

A MULTI-million pound housing development on the edge of a Perthshire town is in question after the discovery of a rare pine marten by two teenage boys.

The discovery of a pine marten in Perthshire woods could stall housing plans. Picture: Lorne Gill/SNH

Angus McNicol and Andrew Wombill spotted the heavily-protected mammal around the Highfield Woods area of Scone, Perthshire, earmarked for a  700-home development by builders A&J Stephen.

The find has now been reported to Perth and Kinross Council.

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Andrew,14, and Angus, 15, made the discovery, believed to be one of the first of its kind so close to Scone, when out in the woods earlier this month [June].

The European pine marten -- much more common in the Highlands but not in the Central belt -- is listed as a rare and priority species.

Andrew said: “We thought it was just a bird and ignored it, then we looked up and originally thought it was a squirrel. We had never seen a squirrel like it though so we quickly inspected it and realised that it was a European pine marten and I took out my phone and started recording it straight away in disbelief as we had never seen one before.

“We have a feeling that the pine marten lives in Highfield Woods as pine martens have a large territory and usually only stay in their territory.

“We, like many other people would not like any development or cutting down of trees to take place in Highfield Woods.

“Even though a lot of the woods is planted and not natural, it has turned into a community area where people like to go for fun and building 700 houses would be dangerous for the animals, pollution and would cause lots of traffic.

“The woods are home to lots of animals such as deer, pine martens, red squirrels, grey squirrels, foxes, birds of prey, frogs and even newts.”

“Pine martens’ territory is a minimum size of 4km by 4km which  in this case would cover most, if not all, of Highfield Woods.”

A spokesperson for A&J Stephen said: “As with all planning applications of this type and scale, the application will be accompanied by a full Environmental Impact Assessment which will consider any potential ecology related issues which may affect the site.

“It is also important to note that only around one per cent of the proposed development land is within woodland and the vast majority of that is commercial forestry.

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“Like any crop, the commercial forestry would be felled by the landowner as part of ongoing planned forestry management. However, it’s important to note that, with the landscaping which we would be introducing as part of the proposed site, there would in fact be significantly more trees planted than lost.”

Local councillor Lewis Simpson, who has been seeking views on the proposed housing development said the boys were to be commended on both spotting and reporting the pine marten.

He added: “All protected species are most important. Great care must be taken to avoid any disturbance during any proposed developments.”

A spokesman for Perth and Kinross Council said: “We have been informed that pine martens have been spotted in the Highfield Woods area of Scone. Pine martens and their dens are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Nature Conservation Act.”

The spokesman said no formal planning application had yet been received from A&J Stephen.

He added: “Any application received will be dealt with on an individual basis, taking into account the potential environmental and ecological impact the application might have on the area.”