Woodland at risk from golf course

Councillors have given initial approval to a bid to build a championship golf course in north-east Scotland, overturning the views of Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and their own officials that the loss of one of the region's largest areas of ancient woodland would be too great.

Ury Estate: golf course backed despite a council report finding that 470 out of 580 trees would be lost as a result - image: Skinubx
Ury Estate: golf course backed despite a council report finding that 470 out of 580 trees would be lost as a result - image: Skinubx

The combined development for a Jack Nicklaus-designed course plus 90 houses on the Ury Estate near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, would mean the loss of 25ha of Slicewells Wood and other small woods, which FCS has described as "ancient woodland sites of long-established plantation origin", adding that some of the threatened woods are also UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats and home to bats, badgers and otters.

"The Scottish Government's policy is that there is a strong presumption against removing such woodland," FCS development officer Ian Cowe said in his submission. While the developers proposed 30ha of compensatory planting and soil relocation to link up remaining woodland fragments in mitigation, "these proposals are not sufficient to balance the proposed loss", he found.

A report issued by Aberdeenshire Council last month cited loss of the woodland as its primary reason for rejecting the plans. It gave a figure of 470 out of 580 trees to be lost as a result, adding: "No evidence has been supplied, based on previous experience or research, to demonstrate that the movement of soil from the woodland onto adjacent agricultural fields will be successful in reinstating woodland habitat on improved agricultural soils." It also concluded that the proposed mitigation "in no way replaces woodland habitat which has developed over hundreds of years".

But the report acknowledged: "A golf course with 'attractor' properties benefits other courses in the area as guests will want to play on them also when in the area," pointing to the success of the nearby and similarly controversial Trump International Golf Links at Menie, 38km away.

The local authority's Kincardine and area planning committee has now backed the development proposals, which will pass for full council approval later this month. Echoing the views of several members, Stonehaven councillor Peter Bellarby said: "There are significant economic and social benefits arising out of this that outweigh the partial loss of the ancient woodland."

Welcoming the news, director of site developer FM Group Jonathon Milne said: "We are thrilled that the area planning committee has seen the bigger picture and has unanimously supported our proposals for a world-class, Jack Nicklaus signature golf course."

He added: "This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a spectacular golf development, with the historic Ury House at its heart, will create jobs and revenues for Stonehaven, the wider region and indeed Scotland for years to come." Work has already begun to turn the imposing but dilapidated Ury House into a luxury hotel and clubhouse.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

IoG Saltex 2016 - show preview

IoG Saltex 2016 - show preview

This year's Saltex will be looking to build on the success of last year by packing in a multitude of exhibitors and sessions over the two days, Sally Drury reports.

Tree lifting, moving  and planting

Tree lifting, moving and planting

Successful relocations can see even big trees flourish while costing less than buying new stock, says Sally Drury.

Pest & Disease Management - Caterpillars

Pest & Disease Management - Caterpillars

Control strategies mainly focus on larval stages.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Arboriculture Contracts & Tenders

Jeremy Barrell On...

Jeremy Barrell

Tree consultant Jeremy Barrell reflects on the big issues in arboriculture.