Last week, contractors working for the Stirling family destroyed part of Holmehill, a protected conservation area.
On Monday this week a Stirling Council planning enforcement officer visited the site and the council are now considering what appropriate action to take. The failure to ‘notify’ has been a serious breach of the conservation status of the site and I have urged the council to refer the matter up to the Procurator Fiscal. The PF could decide it is in the public interest to pursue the case further and the maximum fine would be £20k.
In terms of potential breaches of wildlife legislation, this remains difficult to pursue given that the trees are down and any evidence of nests is gone. However, bird surveys and other information should still be forwarded to the Police.
There was a public meeting on Thursday this week organised by the Holmehill Community Buyout Group which I attended, as did Ian Stirling the landowner. There was heat and light in equal measure and a good report is on the HCBG website here.
A couple of conclusions now the dust has settled..
Holmehill woodland needs managed including coppicing and/or re-planting the area damaged last weekend. It deserves to be neither neglected nor clear felled. The community could feasibly help Mr. Stirling manage the site with a proper plan going forward, or at least the parts that Allanwater Developments are not interested in building on. I hope this can happen with a little good will all round.
I fully support the attempts of HCBG to buy the whole site as I have done since my time as an MSP. This requires negotiations to resume with the landowner on a more realistic basis than previously. I cannot see development ever being granted on the site given the direction of the Local Development Plan. When the LDP is approved next year it should finally provide certainty on the matter and underpin a buyout price which is realistic for an amenity area without planning permission.
I have spoken to Mr. Stirling since the meeting on Thursday night and there appears to be a willingness now to continue the dialogue with HCBG which I welcome.
In the meantime, the felled trees will need to be removed due to health and safety reasons on the site. I support this as an alternative to erecting heras fencing to secure the site, but obviously the whole community needs to remain vigilant as to how this is carried out, especially given that the contractors were particularly bullish last weekend.