I've just submitted a personal response to the Forestry Commission Scotland consultation over the Halkshill and Blair Park forestry proposal for the hills behind and facing onto Largs. Whilst I am generally supportive of the idea of a forest, I have a few issues with the proposals as they currently stand in terms of its intrusion onto the Largs landscape, its affect on our community, and the lack of meaningful consulation with local stakeholders, including the community at large. On this basis I have objected to the project in its current form. The objections are summarised as follows:
1) The visual impact of the project on the landscape directly facing onto the tourist town of Largs - including the intrusion of commerical conifer based woodland (Sitka Spruce and Scots Pine) onto the hill facing the town, and the galvanised steel fence to keep deer out. When the forest is initially sown the view from my house, and from the town, Cumbrae, and boats at sea, will look onto a scarred and ploughed landscape; and when harvested the commercial part will just look a mess. They need to push the project back over the ridge of the hill, and remove the conifer plantation from sight.
2) The devastating transformation of the much loved Gogo Glen leading up to the Greeto Bridge area (see my previous post at http://chrispatonsblog.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/damage-to-greeto-falls-walk-and-beauty.html), including the inherent dangers of accessing the new Core Path 'forest capable' road (i.e. the old track to the Gretas) from the town as a forestry route, with safety concerns for Bellesdale Avenue and Flatt Road (especially in light of the new super-school being built), not to mention wear and tear on Largs roads.
The environmental statement also shows that the west end of the proposed planting area, which includes the Gogo Glen, is not optimally suitable, with threats from windthrow and even pests. If the project fails, who clears up the mess?
3) A serious lack of information on any proposed community benefit to help mitigate for what will be a substantial change in the use of the landscape behind the town. Two pages as an afterthought in a 800 page statement, comprised of nothing but vague promises, does not instil any confidence for community support - particularly when no community benefit has as yet been identified from the hydro projects already being built in the glen by Stakis. Public money will be involved - it is not enough to just make vague promises. This is our environment, our landscape, and it will be fundamentally affected.
4) A lack of consultation with businesses in the town about the potential impact of the whole endeavour. Pretending that a previous consultation a few years back for a windfarm a few miles up the road can provide relevant data for the impact of a commercial forestry project on local businesses in Largs is thoroughly misleading.
5) A blatant conflict of interest between FCS, which will grant permission, and Tilhill Forestry, the developer - in that the Forestry Commissioner is also the Managing Director of Tilhill.
If you have any comments to make to the FCS you have until August 14th. See http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/supporting/grants-and-regulations/environmental-impact-assessment/eia-projects/halkshill for the Environmental Impact Statement containg details of what is proposed.
Let's keep trying to Save the Gretas...