Chairman’s Report 2011/12

 

This is our third annual report…and, just like in the first two years, it has been a busy one. 

 

As was the case in previous years, there have been two quite distinct aspects of the group’s work in relation to development and planning matters relevant to our area during the year.

 

Firstly, we sought to influence TAYPlan (the Strategic Planning Development Authority for Tayside and North Fife regions) and Perth & Kinross Council in the development of the new Local Development Plan.

 

In relation to TAYPlan, after seeking comments from our members, we submitted a response to the draft Proposed Plan supporting it.  The Proposed Plan focussed most new housing development in the major centres of Perth and Dundee rather than in the Carse of Gowrie corridor whether by the enlargement of existing settlements, the formation of a whole new town or a combination of both.  In the autumn TAYPlan was finally approved by the Scottish Government. 

 

A similar procedure applies to the PKC Local Development Plan.  You may recall that a huge amount of time and effort was put into our response to the Main Issues Report with general comments made relating to landscape character and setting, traffic impact, leisure and amenity issues, flooding and drainage and others issues that were relevant to all of the proposed sites within the Braes area and also detailed comments on the individual site assessments at Abernyte, Ballindean, Rait and Westown.

 

Following consideration of the responses to the Main Issues Report the Draft Plan was issued by PKC on 30th January 2012.  This represented the Council’s settled view on the appropriate use of land up to 2024 and beyond and contained its detailed policies and proposals.  At more than 300 pages it couldn’t easily be summarised….but some of the important points to note were:

Only very limited development in the Carse of Gowrie and no areas allocated for housing in the Braes.

Settlement boundaries only for Rait, Kinnaird and Baledgarno.  All other villages, small settlements or groups of houses to be protected by the Housing in the Countryside Policy.

Only the very northwestmost tip of the BCCG area to be in the proposed Green Belt (although there would be opportunity to try to persuade PKC to designate the Braes a “Local Landscape Area” later)

 

Again we sought the views of our members, including an online survey, and we responded in April to the Proposed Plan.  The full text of our response is on our website but basically we supported the terms of the Proposed Plan, the main exception being a request that the proposed removal of the settlement boundary of Abernyte be reconsidered.  We also stressed the importance of the Housing in the Countryside Policy being rigorously enforced to protect the open countryside and small building groups that do not have settlement boundaries. 

PKC are still presently considering all responses submitted to the Proposed Plan and in the next couple of months will send the Proposed Plan as amended or with any unresolved issues to an Independent government Reporter for the next stage in the process….planning is not a quick process!

 

TAYPlan and the Local Development Plan are of great importance as they will shape the strategy and direction for development over the next 20 years.  We have tried to ensure that the interests of those living in the Braes of the Carse have been made known to those who are to make these important decisions affecting the future of our area and our intention is to continue to do so.

 

Secondly we sought to express the views of our members in relation to specific contentious planning applications lodged in respect of potential development sites within our area.

We continue to try to monitor applications for development lodged with PKC on a weekly basis so we can alert local members of any planning applications that may be considered controversial or significant and about which they may be unaware.   The proposed housing development of Myreside Steading, Pitroddie has rumbled on for yet another year with no final decision as yet taken about the third version of the proposed development.   The number of housing units reduces each time an application is lodged but is still in the view of many of our members unacceptable and contravenes numerous Council policies.   Our local members tell us that they are very appreciative of the Group’s continuing support and this makes our time and effort well worthwhile.

 

I continue to be on the Inchture Community Council with responsibility primarily for planning matters that affect the area north of the A90.  I am grateful to committee members Fraser Lawrence and Stephen Hole who also try to keep an eye on planning applications.

 

Finally, in relation to planning issues, a review of the Rait Conservation Area was carried out this year.  This was long overdue as Rait was first designated in 1973.  A very detailed and comprehensive appraisal document was prepared by PKC and we responded positively to it generally supporting its aims.

 

Our own Group’s Development Plan has two stated outcomes that we are seeking to achieve.  The first relates to local involvement in planning issues and the second is protection of the local environment.  This time last year we received confirmation of funding from PKC’s Quality of Life Trust for not just one, but three different biodiversity projects. 

 

The aim of the first project was to provide nest boxes, particularly for UK BAP priority bird species such as barn owl, tree and house sparrow, spotted flycatcher to try to encourage their breeding.  Some species had declined due to conversion of steadings into housing and the loss of mature trees with nest holes and other habitats.  Barry and Cathy Caudwell ran training sessions to provide guidance to those who wished to have a nest box both in respect of the best site for it and also how to properly record data from it.  120 high quality bird boxes were purchased and more than half of them sited and provided homes this year for a number of different species including blue tit, great tit and one “red list” species – tree sparrow.  Records were kept, Barry battled the poor summer weather and awkward nest sites and ringed many of our fledglings and information was collated initially on our website before being sent to the British Trust for Ornithology.

 

The intention of the second project was to start to restore some of the old field boundaries and tree lines by carrying out planting of native trees.  The landscape of the Braes of the Carse depends heavily on the tree lines on field boundaries, lanes and roads as well as larger plantations for its character.  Many of our notable tree lines were planted by our Victorian ancestors and are now ageing, have major gaps or are in danger of being lost.  So far a total of 120 trees have been planted and the landowners have all agreed that, whenever practicable, they will replace, replant and maintain the tree lines on their land.  I am grateful to Malcolm McSwan for coordinating this project.

 

The third project aimed to re-establish traditional varieties of fruit trees in the local area.  The intention was to plant a number of small groups of orchard trees to increase awareness and involvement of local people in the Carse of Gowrie Historic Orchard Project. Traditional orchards are also a haven for biodiversity, encouraging a wide range of bees and other insects and over time encouraging lichens, mosses etc and eventually providing nest sites for birds and bats.  Trefor Woodford coordinated this project and he has supervised the planting of 35 apple trees and 3 plum trees (all with support stakes, stem ties and tree guards) in locations in Abernyte, Kinnaird and Rait.  We received very positive feedback especially from a young rep from Abernyte Primary School Pupil Council who let us know how much the pupils enjoyed helping plant the trees and letting us know how they were watering them and generally looking after them.

 

Continuing on the biodiversity theme we held a public meeting in Errol in July about Swifts.  This was led by Daniele Muir, a PKC Ranger, who was aided and abetted by our own Barry Caudwell.  This was a popular meeting with 25+ people attending and, despite the typical miserable wet summer weather, we went outside for a walk around the village and spotted several swifts…and were then able to distinguish them with confidence from swallows and house martins!  The importance of providing suitable nesting sites for these increasingly threatened summer visitors and the planners taking swifts into consideration when old buildings are demolished is clear. 

 

We provided a letter of support to Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust when they first applied for Heritage Lottery Funding for the Tay Landscape Partnership Scheme and were delighted to learn of the success of the application earlier in the year.  Since then members of BCCG have been actively involved in many aspects of the TLP. 

 

Christine Hall and I have attended a couple of meetings of the TLP Working Group for Living Landscapes and also Landscape Character Assessment discussion groups to make sure that those who are involved in selecting projects for funding are aware of the importance of, and opportunities in, the Braes of the Carse area.   It is still early days, but, thanks to a lot of preparatory work by Christine, we have submitted the outline of a project to create a network of wildlife corridors from the Tay to the hills (Tay to Braes Wildlife Ways).  This seems to have general support from other local groups and TLP itself.  It might involve orchards, tree lines, paths, bird boxes, road verge and water course management, planting for bees, insects and small mammals etc.  This proposed ambitious project would further develop and expand our existing three projects.  

 

We would be unable to entertain a project of this size without the help of a project officer.  We have been lucky enough to recently secure a “share” in a part time project officer’s time and my hope is this will not only be of invaluable assistance to BCCG and our Tay to Braes Wildlife Ways project but also avoid wasteful duplication of work between us and other local groups and provide a more coordinated approach for the benefit of the whole Carse.   Andrea Partridge who had previously done some excellent work with the Historic Orchard Forum and is known by many of our members already has been appointed as the part time project officer and will be working closely with the TLP in connection with our project.  The outcome of the TLP funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund will not be known for a while and our Tay to Braes Wildlife Ways project is only one of many community projects that are seeking funding.  Once we have further news we will be seeking volunteers from amongst our members and other local Carse residents to get involved and help implement the project.

 

As I said at the start, this has been another busy year for BCCG. I think we have already achieved a lot but there is much more we can do to make a real difference to the unique environment that is the Braes of the Carse.  I would encourage all of our members to give feedback about what you think we have done well and, more importantly, what we can improve on. 

 

I am extremely grateful for the support from all BCCG members, committee members and particularly Barry Caudwell, Trefor Woodford and Malcolm McSwan for looking after our three biodiversity projects this year and Christine Hall in relation to the Tay to Braes Wildlife Ways project.    Without everyone giving up their valuable free time we would not have achieved what we have done to date. 

 

Alison Ramsay

Oct 2012