Millionaire landowner confirms Highland wildlife park would ban ramblers

Company to earn £10m industrialisation of our hillsides

First minister announces new era for renewable energy

The Great Crane Project

Beaver re-introduction may go ahead in Scotland

Millionaire landowner confirms Highland wildlife park would ban ramblers

Sunday Herald 28 October 2007

Paul Lister, heir to the MFI furniture fortune and owner of the 23,000-acre Alladale estate, called for a "clear derogation" between the public and Scotland's so-called "big five" - wolves, bears, boar, lynx and beaver - which he plans to release back into the wild. Calling for people to make "sacrifices" in order for his "visionary" wildlife park to go ahead, Lister made clear that he believes people should be willing to give up the right to access the land enshrined in Scottish law. "It would not be practical to have people walking around Alladale while wolves roam," said Lister. "There are lots of places where people can walk in Scotland, but there will not be lots of places that they can see animals in their natural habitat... Are we prepared to sacrifice access to an area that makes up less than 1% of the Scottish Highlands? Are we prepared to sacrifice walking around that bit of land and trying something different, something that will actually encourage more people to come up here and create lots of jobs? I'm a custodian - I'm trying to encourage more people to come up here. Ultimately, the local politicians and the local people will have to decide. It won't be me that makes the decision. But we have scarred this landscape. We have to see if we can find a way to put something back."

Since buying Alladale estate in 2003 for £3million, Lister, the son of the MFI founder, has been working on his scheme to copy South Africa's Shamwari game reserve, where animals killed off as a result of hundreds of years of human encroachment were successfully reintroduced. He wants to replicate that in Scotland, charging guests up to £27,000 a week to stay at Alladale Lodge, which sleeps 16 people in sumptuous comfort. But he also says day passes will be available, for £50 per adult, with a ranger and food supplied, for those unable to afford to stay overnight. Lister has already spent millions on his dream. On a recent tour he spoke passionately and eloquently of his desire to have up to 20,000 visitors a year at Alladale, creating hundreds of jobs and restoring the land.

Dave Morris, director of the Ramblers Association Scotland, said: "We would have concerns about proposals to enclose substantial areas of land to create a huge fenced enclosure for wolves if this led to the loss of statutory access rights and massive landscape impacts from high fences and service roads."Wolves and walkers coexist in many other European countries, without the need for high fences to separate the two. If wolves are to be reintroduced into Scotland it should be on the same basis as elsewhere in Europe, with walkers and wolves free to coexist in the same mountains and forests.”

Farming leaders also reacted furiously. In a statement, the National Farmers Union said: "Farmers do not want the animals they care for being killed by wolves. Animal welfare is of crucial importance and farmers have a duty of care over their animals."Also, any proposal to release wolves here would sit oddly with our access legislation. We're unlikely to attract visitors to enjoy our countryside if it contains animals that scare them."

Sunday Herald

Company to earn £10m industrialisation of our hillsides

Press & Journal, 26 Oct 07

Environmental groups will take their campaign against the "industrialisation" of Scotland's most scenic areas to the Scottish Government today. The John Muir Trust and Ramblers Scotland will unveil a campaign poster at the SNP conference at Aviemore calling for new restrictions on the height of wind turbines and power lines. They believe the iconic landscapes are threatened by windfarms and the proposal to upgrade the 136-mile Beauly to Denny power line with pylons double the size of existing ones - up to 220ft.

Nigel Hawkins, director of the John Muir Trust, said: "The SNP must act to ensure that Scotland reduces its carbon emissions without forever defacing its finest landscapes… The challenge of climate change should be focused on energy conservation, decentralized energy production and tapping the enormous potential for offshore wind, wave and tidal power… Denigrate Scotland's wild land, and we risk permanently damaging the tourist industry which is a mainstay of the Scottish economy".

The green groups are seeking a recognition that previous government policy on renewable energy has been "disastrous" because of an alleged lack of concern for the wild qualities of Scotland's countryside. They want revised planning guidance to put a limit on the height of onshore wind turbines to reduce their visual impact, and a ban on construction on peatlands. Financial incentives for renewable projects must be changed to shift the emphasis towards offshore and marine technologies, and small-scale community projects. The two groups are also calling for a "genuine commitment" to incentives to reduce the demand for energy.

First minister announces new era for renewable energy

25 October 2007

An important milestone in Wales’ drive to increase renewable energy was reached today as First Minister Rhodri Morgan announced a new era in the development of wind farms. Forestry Commission managed land is to be leased for the construction of wind turbines to step up Wales’ contribution to combating climate change, the First Minister told the Wales Forum on Europe sustainable energy event in Swansea. He said preferred bidders would now be invited to develop wind farms in suitable areas of Assembly Government-owned forests. Today’s announcement means that if the preferred bidders took up the options, they could then go on to apply for planning permission to erect wind turbines on the land. If they secured planning permission, the option would convert into a leasing agreement. The announcement is not part of the planning process, which will not fall to be determined by the Assembly Government. Wind farm developments above 50MW such as these will need planning permission from the Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, the former Department of Trade and Industry, with the local authority having a major say-so.

The First Minister said: “Climate change is the biggest challenge the world faces, and there are difficult decisions to be made. Action over the next ten years is absolutely vital. Wind energy is a renewable energy technology that is commercially viable on a large scale and our weather and geography here in Wales means we are well placed to use it. “We want to encourage wind energy and it was only right that we assessed the possibilities of having wind farms on suitable areas of Assembly Government-owned Forestry Commission land. The announcement means bidders, who have been carefully assessed for their commitment both to renewable energy and the local communities, will now be invited to sign option agreements enabling them to apply for planning permission… It does not guarantee that the developments will take place and each proposal will be subject to thorough scrutiny as part of the planning process in which we have no statutory role… I am extremely conscious of the debate on wind farms and I would like to reassure people that all the developments will be subject to the normal independent processes of planning approval. But I also want to stress that we must address climate change and we must accept that wind power is crucial in our drive to generate more electricity from renewable sources.”

Sites for the possible development of wind farms were identified on Forestry Commission land located within the Strategic Search Areas. The Strategic Search Areas were published in TAN 8, the Assembly Government’s guidance for renewable energy in 2005, and a tender process has been on-going. Today’s announcement follows a detailed analysis of each bidder’s ability to contribute towards the Assembly Government’s targets for renewable energy and the extent of wider benefits they could offer.

Forestry Commission

The Great Crane Project

Pensthorpe Conservation Trust 25 October 2007

There is a long history of cranes in Britain; they feature on illustrated manuscripts and appeared on the menu for Henry III's Christmas feast at York in 1251! Eurasian cranes (Grus grus) were formerly widespread, but the drainage of extensive areas of wetlands and hunting caused them to disappear as a breeding bird in Britain before the 17th century. They occur widely in Europe, where populations have suffered historically from loss of wetland habitats, but are becoming adapted to breeding in agricultural areas and are now increasing in many closely-settled areas, such as eastern Germany. Small numbers visit eastern and southern England each year on passage and a growing breeding population exists on the Norfolk Broads and at one other site in England, as well as resident wild birds at Pensthorpe.

Early in 2004, the PCT team invited the RSPB to Pensthorpe in order to discuss the potential to collaborate on a project for the widespread re-establishment of Eurasian cranes in the UK. Later, the PCT also approached the WWT and Jordans Cereals; leading to further discussions and eventually to the establishment of the joint PCT/RSPB/WWT/Jordans Cereals Great Crane Project in June 2006.

The project partners believe that as a native species, it should be given the opportunity to become a familiar sight once more. The breeding group in Norfolk shows that cranes can survive and breed successfully in the UK, but that population is growing and spreading only slowly. If we want to see cranes breeding elsewhere in the country within a reasonable timescale, a translocation project is therefore the only way forward. As a first step in the project, the PCT and its partner organisations are engaged in feasibility work designed to re-establish cranes at a new site. A short-list of potential release sites is being drawn up, and techniques for rearing young cranes are being investigated.

Pensthorpe Trust

Beaver re-introduction may go ahead in Scotland

15 October 2007

Two of Scotland’s leading conservation bodies, the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), who are proposing a trial reintroduction of beavers to Knapdale, Argyll, are inviting local communities in the area to find out more about their plans at specially organised events on 18 October and 20 October. The events are part of a local consultation launched on 1 October 2007.

The Scottish Beaver Trial could see beavers living in the wild in Scotland for the first time since they were hunted to extinction in the sixteenth century. Beavers play an important role in aquatic and wetland ecosystems, having a positive effect on both environmental and woodland management, and on the wider biodiversity of the area in which they live. They can also play an important role in encouraging wildlife tourism, with positive spin-offs for local communities. SWT’s Chief Executive, Simon Milne, said: ‘We are keen to ensure that local communities close to the proposed trial site are aware and informed of our proposal and are able to have their say before submit our licence application to the Scottish Government. These events are a way of ensuring that people have the right information to make an informed opinion and hopefully this is the chance for people in Argyll to play their part in positive conservation action by securing the first reintroduction of beavers to the UK.’

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme, the Minister revealed that he would like to ‘make a decision this year and if at all possible, I’d like to make sure it [a trial beaver re-introduction] happens.’ He continued ‘A lot of European countries have successfully introduced the beaver. It is native to Scotland and there is no reason it [the beaver] shouldn’t be here…an opportunity exists to bring it back and there are some technical issues in the last application in relation to the European Habitats Directive that need to be looked at…I’m keen to see this happen.’