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Shortage of peatland workers leading to delay in restoration works in Cairngorms

By Gavin Musgrove

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Restoration works taking place at An Lurg on the RSPB's Abernethy reserve. Photo: RSPB Scotland
Restoration works taking place at An Lurg on the RSPB's Abernethy reserve. Photo: RSPB Scotland

A shortage of peatland contractors could delay restoration works on estates across the Cairngorms National Park, it has emerged.

Demand is outstripping supply of qualified workers and means that several projects planned by the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

This could lead to the CNPA missing its own targets, chief executive Grant Moir has said in a paper to go before next Friday's full board meeting.

Two new Peatland Action project officers joined the organisation last month bringing the staff compliment to five with a peatland GIS (Geographic Information System) officer and project assistant to be recruited this autumn.

Mr Moir states: "The team is receiving increased interest in peatland restoration from land managers across the national park and from potential private investors for carbon offsetting.

"The demand for restoration work continues to outstrip the availability of peatland contractors and this is likely to limit the delivery potential for several years.

"For the third year in a row several projects did not attract contractors to undertake the work.

"This in part reflects the lack of peatland contractors as well as the very high demand in the construction sector for machine operators and staff shortages due to Brexit or Covid."

The CNPA is to run a training programme for new peatland contractors on Atholl and Tulchan estates where at least four local contractors will be trained on undertaking drain blocking and re-profiling.

General training is also to be run with the assistance of the Peatland ACTION training team from the Crichton Carbon Centre based in Kirkgunzeon in Dumfries and Galloway.

Mr Moir said: "Our target of 557 hectares of peatland restoration management for this year remains challenging given the contractor issues despite the team actually having 955 hectares of potential projects that could be delivered.

"The majority of our work this year will be drain blocking and there is the possibility to increase this work if weather and contractor capacity allow."

Peatland restoration is now classed as permitted development and prior notification applications need to be submitted to local authorities.

The CNPA's peatland team has developed new protocols for this process and applications have been submitted for 10 estates.

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