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PICTURES: Felling of trees under way at controversial Aviemore housing site


By Gavin Musgrove

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Some of the felled trees stacked up on the edge of the woods near the Spey Valley Golf Course clubhouse.
Some of the felled trees stacked up on the edge of the woods near the Spey Valley Golf Course clubhouse.

Work has started to clear trees from an Aviemore wood for housing which was at the centre of a long running planning dispute.

Timber is starting to stack up on the edge of Dalfaber Woods at the north end of the village.

Housing at the site has been in the planning pipeline for nearly two decades.

A total of 74 homes are to be built at the site by the Spey Valley Golf Club, with the required affordable housing just delivered by the new Badenoch and Strathspey Community Hospital.

Operations have started to clear trees for the new housing.
Operations have started to clear trees for the new housing.

The original housing development – applied for by Reidhaven Estates – was fought by local residents under the umbrella of the Dalfaber Action Group all the way to the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, but ultimately failed.

A works compound was erected just over a year ago on the site near the golf course’s clubhouse by Aviemore-based Davall Developments who acquired the site three years ago.

Warning signs have been placed in the woods to let the public know tree felling is taking place.
Warning signs have been placed in the woods to let the public know tree felling is taking place.

And now an excavator and chainsaws have started work.

Detailed planning permission is in place for a range of houses on the woodland site which is popular with dog walkers.

Signs that work is now under way for the new homes.
Signs that work is now under way for the new homes.

The overall development required 19 affordable homes – but 36 are being delivered in total at the former TSC call centre which is now occupied with the remaining 12 just handed over to the new tenants.

The reinstatement of Dalfaber farmhouse is also part of the original conditions but a bid has been launched to challenge that as developers have said the building is now in such poor condition.

The old Dalfaber Farmhouse which has been derelict for many years and overlooks the first tee at Spey Valley golf course.
The old Dalfaber Farmhouse which has been derelict for many years and overlooks the first tee at Spey Valley golf course.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority originally refused an application for 101 house plots in November 2006, but this was granted on appeal by Scottish Government Reporters Unit for up to 104 homes.

The applicants entered a legal agreement with the Cairngorms National Park Authority that means that no houses can be occupied on the sites until the Strathspey steam railway level crossing at Dalfaber has been upgraded to the satisfaction of the relevant transport authorities.

Developer Allan Munro told the Strathy a year ago that there were still outstanding issues to be resolved before house-building will start.

Negotiations are being conducted with the Office for Road and Rail, Highland Council and the Strathspey Steam Railway Company on the railway barrier.

A spate of near misses has been reported by motorists over the years. Police and the railway company have also raised their concerns about drivers running the lights and ignoring warning bells.

The railway crossing at Dalfaber currently has no barrier despite a big rise in homes in the viciniity.
The railway crossing at Dalfaber currently has no barrier despite a big rise in homes in the viciniity.

There was an accident earlier this year when a car was involved in a collision with a steam loco putting the crossing issue back in the spotlight.

The most serious accident occurred at the level crossing in spring 2005 when a Toyota Micra being driven by a local woman was hit by a train and taken 100 metres down the line.

She had to be cut from the wreckage and suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Highland Council, as then planning authority, has been criticised in the past for not ensuring that previous developers were forced to make contributions towards the cost of the crossing as substantial numbers of homes were built across the line at Dalfaber as well as the Spey Valley Golf Course.

The developers have said substantial areas of the woods will still remain after the housing work has been completed.

The council and Davall Developments have been contacted for an update on the level crossing discussions.


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