Published: 23/04/2008 00:00 - Updated: 30/11/2011 14:17

Trust boss calls for a bigger park

Dick Balharry on the Dava Road, near the park boundary.
Dick Balharry on the Dava Road, near the park boundary.

THE boss of the John Muir Trust is calling for the final pieces of the Cairngorms National Park jigsaw to be put in place with the inclusion of the entire catchment area of the River Spey and Dava Moor. The Scottish Government announced last month that the park - already Britain's largest - was to be extended south to include thousands of additional acres. Environment Minister Mike Russell confirmed that Blair Atholl and other parts of eastern and Highland Perthshire will be included following a campaign by communities in the areas and the SNP's John Swinney, who represents parts of the area in question at Holyrood. However, Mr Dick Balharry, who is now in his fifth year as chairman of the trust, believes that the Cairngorms National Park is still not complete. He is calling for the Spey catchment area and Dava to be considered for inclusion as part of the first five-yearly review of the park which goes out for public consultation later this year - and is urging the public to get behind the idea. Such a move could see off the threat of wind farms which have been lined up particularly those proposed along the northern arc of the park boundary. Campaigners are fighting plans to site more than 130 giant turbines in total, each around 425-feet high, on the remote wilderness of the moor at proposed developments at Berryburn, Cairn Duhie, Glenkirk, Dunearn, Tom nan Clach and Dunmaglass in the Mondhliaths. There are already major wind farms at Farr and Paul's Hill by Ballindalloch. It is park authority policy to only allow single turbines within their borders - although it has yet to be tested by any renewable energy developers. Mr Balharry, who lives in Newtonmore, said: "I think that to have the headwaters of the Spey cut off is a nonsense because any contamination of the water catchment in the high areas runs all the way through to the Spey itself." He said that he was at present voicing his own opinion but expects that the trust will make a formal representation on the expansion. Commenting on the Dava, he said: "It is probably the most dramatic entrance into the national park; the great moorland; the high hills of the Cairngorm plateau - Braeriach, Ben Macdui, Cairn Gorm and others peaking through white in the background. "It is an incredible part of the country; you know you are entering into something special. "The idea that this area should be industrialised in any way reduces the landscape value for hundreds of thousands of people who come and go here every year. "But it's not only the natural heritage but the cultural heritage - the Wolf of Badenoch and everything that goes with it." Ms Jeannie Munro is one of the Dava residents battling plans for a wind farm by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) about nine miles north of Grantown, in two two-mile arcs around Cairn Duhie. The overall height of the 15 turbines from blade to tip could be 100 metres. She echoed Mr Balharry's words. "Money-grabbing developers are raping our most cherished landscapes and this is only the start," she said Ms Jeannie Munro. "Generations of my family have lived in the Dava and I cannot just sit by and watch our greatest asset be destroyed for an unreliable and exceeding expensive source of power. Wildlife, peat bogs, the tranquility will be decimiated." The RES wind farm site on Glenferness Estate is just a few miles from Lochindorb and its castle which dates from at least the start of the 14th Century and stands on a natural island midway along the loch. Lochindorb Castle was one of the main strongholds of the disreputable Alexander Stewart - better known as the Wolf of Badenoch - who burned down Elgin Cathedral after a fall-out with the Bishop of Moray. It was rumoured that on the eve of his death in 1405 - when he still remained a powerful figure - he played chess with the Devil. A Scottish Government spokeswoman confirmed that consultations on the Cairngorms National Park - both its operation and boundaries - would start later this year. She said: "The strategic review of the national park functions will start in May and will be in two parts. The first stage will address key questions on the organisation of the bodies that run the national parks and consider what sort of body should undertake the national park functions. Consultation will take place with many park stakeholders. "The second stage of the strategic review, which will start in the Autumn, will deal with more detailed operational matters, such as planning. "The Minister also announced that Scottish Natural Heritage would be appointed to prepare a report on extending the southern boundary of Cairngorms National Park to include Blair Atholl and parts of Highland and eastern Perthshire. "SNH will announce in due course the consultation that is required to take place as part of its reporting. "The case for other boundary changes will be considered as part of the second phase of the strategic review of the national parks. "If the review concludes that other proposals for boundary change have sufficient substance and are supported by the community they could be referred at a later stage for formal evaluation." A national park spokeswoman said: "The boundary of the national park is a matter for the Scottish Government."

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