As explained in a recent Ardgay & District CC newsletter, a proposal by the Balnagown Estate to plant thousands of trees on Jubilee Hill near Ardgay village was presented to the community in September 2018. Scottish Forestry (previously known as Forestry Commission) decides on applications. A petition to SF against the proposal gathered more than 150 signatures from people in the local area.
Representatives of Balnagown Estate and Scottish Forestry met with the community on the 25th October 2019, to present a revised plan. There is no major overall reduction in the total number of trees in the new plan. There are some suggested changes to where the trees are planted, namely leaving some areas free of trees, reducing the numbers of trees in some areas, and increasing the number of trees from the original plan in other areas.
The revised plan was considered by a large majority of local residents at the meeting to be slightly less invasive than the original, but many people still had concerns including:
-The impact on winter sunlight.
-The disruption of views both from the hill and towards the hill.
-The rapidity of the change to one of the few raised tree-free areas within walking distance of the village, especially given this is an area with a great deal of local history.
Balnagown Estates said in defence of their scheme that if sheep-grazing on the hill was to stop, after a number of years the site would become over-run with invasive non-native trees and other plant species. In response to this view, villagers suggested that the area should be allowed to regenerate at a natural pace, with the process being managed by the local community. Scottish Government policies encourage communities to be involved in decisions that affect them but also encourage a major increase in the planting of trees. Residents in the meeting noted that the Jubilee Hill area covers only a very small fraction of Government targets for tree-planting and is already in a heavily-forested area. The campaigners made it clear that they were willing to discuss any further solutions which might cause less impact and decrease the damage to a treasured amenity.
A representative of Balnagown Estates contacted by Kyle Chronicle said: “It is good to engage with the community. We had two productive meetings to hear everybody’s thoughts. In the last year, the scheme has changed substantially to become a wholly native broadleaf forest with plenty of open land left. All is being considered.”