Image: Courtesy of To Hatch a Crow
I have not had time to publish many blogs in the past 2 months or so and hope to get back to a regular weekly or twice-weekly schedule as soon as possible. I would also like to stress that this blog reflects my own personal views on the matters under discussion. A statement to that effect is now in the page header.
In light of the widespread interest, I am publishing this quick update on the Ledgowan story (previous blogs can be seen by selecting “Ledgowan” in the Category menu on the right). This is also an opportunity to wish all the readers and contributors to the blog a very happy christmas and best wishes for the new year.
On 30 November, around 30-40 walkers visited Ledgowan. Here is one account of the day from David “Heavy” Whalley.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
SNH replied to my enquiry about the hill-track crossing the SSSI. Here is the response from Steve North.
Hi Andy – you may already be aware that my colleague Nicola Tallach has recently responded to a query on this track fromCalum Brown who is writing a report on tracks built under ‘permitted development rights’ for Scottish Environment LINK. She advised him:
“As you have identified, the first section of the track from Ledgowan Lodge, crosses Achnasheen Terraces SSSI therefore on the 18 March 2011 I had a site visit with the owner, Steve North (South Highland’s Operations Manager) and John Gordon (one of SNH’s geological advisors). During this visit it was established that the line of the track crossing the SSSI had not caused serious damage to the landforms. Continuation of the track route along the foot of the lower slope above the main terrace was also likely to be compatible with the key features of the site. At this time the only track being discussed was the one which led to the loch edge and the route to this, across the SSSI had already been constructed.
The track which you are no doubt referring to, going up the hill, branches off the original track which was discussed on site however access to this branching off point is across the track which SNH saw on site and agreed was acceptable/ did not cause serious damage to the land form.
Any track work out with the designated site would be a matter for the planners and as such I was in touch with the Highland Council planners on several occasions to inform them of track progress. The track is not within the Wester Ross NSA therefore permitted development rights are in place and the owner claimed the track was for agricultural purposes therefore he did not need planning permission. The Highland Council were not therefore able to do anything to prevent the construction of the track within existing planning regs”.
So, to answer your specific question, because the track was considered to fall within permitted development rights, SNH were not consulted on any planning application for the tracks and made no response to Highland Council (objection or otherwise).
However, the SSSI status of part of the estate did result in us meeting Andrew Simpson on site with our expert geomorphologist to assess the implications of the tracks for the nationally important features. As Nicola says, our conclusion and advice to Mr Simpson was that the track that was being developed within the SSSI had not caused any serious damage to the landforms and continuation along the foot of the steeper slopes (above the main terrace) was also likely to be compatible with the key features of the site. We identified how the kettle holes could be safeguarded and highlighted the benefits of following SNH’s published best practice guidance on track construction in upland areas. We also reminded Mr Simpson of the requirement of the legislation behind the SSSI that land managers contact SNH before they carry out works which may affect the special features of a site.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
Following the reported breach of EU regulations in relation to the lochside track (see this previous blog), I asked SEPA to confirm whether the main hilltrack had been built in accordance with the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Regulations 2011. Here is the reply received from Alastair Duff.
SEPA have visited the Ledgowan Estate and driven the length of the hill track in the company of estate staff.
There are several crossings that are of a size that should have required a Registration from SEPA in order to permit their construction, but these were not applied for. However, upon inspecting these crossings, the works undertaken would almost certainly have been licenced by SEPA.
SEPA has made a few minor recommendations in relation to some of the crossings, but is not taking any further action in relation to the works undertaken in the construction of the hill access track.
Highland Council was asked to release material released under the FoI request made by the estate employee (see previous blog). Here are the various communications (10Mb pdf download)
Finally, Ledgowan estate owner Mr Simpson, has compiled an “incident report” which has been given to a resident of Achnasheen. An account of this is given in the West Highland Free Press today. (see copy of story here).
I and others have, on a number of occasions attempted to contact Mr Simpson during the course of this story. He has never returned any calls to me or to media outlets. It turns out, however, that Andrew Simpson is a subscriber to my www.whoownsscotland.org.uk website. His subscription was due to expire this month and so an automated email was sent to him thanking him for his subscription and inviting him to renew it. As a consequence, he made the only contact he has ever made with me and replied to the email simply,
“What an arsehole you are goodby” (sic)
Well at least he can spell ‘arsehole’ Andy; ‘goodbye’ was more of a struggle obviously.
Thank you for your posts throughoit the year – like Lallands Peat Worrier, you make complex matters intelligible and do so in a civilised manner. If only all – or even most – Scottish cybergab was like this!
I was wondering who the hel Goodby was!
hell…. Im as bad as Goodby
Oh! Mr Simpson, don’t you know……..swearing is usually a good indicator of an inadequate vocabulary with which one is unable to adequately express their true feelings in an appropriate manner!
I think that was a case of of the pot calling the kettle black. When he signed up for your site he probably thought as an ex gamekeeper you would be blind to the goings on of the arseholes among the landowners!
the best bit is asking him if he would like to renew his subscription.lol His reply shows how mad he must be. it would make a great story for a book, it could be called ‘LAIRDS, LAND and UNSUITABLE BEHAVIOR’
Yes I agree Slurry Stirrer it does show his enraged and ill-tempered behaviour but maybe he forgot its better to be silent and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt!
Sounds like potentia, good reading.
“potential”, even. 😉
Is Mr Simpsons phraseology a 21st century take on “Goodbye Mr Chips” or perhaps Douglas Adams more fatalist vision of the future in his book entitled ” So long and thanks for all the fish”.
“Lairds, Land and Arseholes”?
Great fun – Simpson lets the mask slip!
Thanks Andy for the important work you do and best wishes for 2014.
Many thanks Andy. Season’s greetings to you too.
There is a very interesting psychological phenomena called projection that may be relevant to this charming email.
On a more serious note I had heard a rumour that Legowan estate had drafted their own access code. If this is true (and it might not be – I couldn’t find it anywhere on the web) I’d be very interested to see it.
A ‘Ledgowan Access Code’ now that’s a definite oxymoron!
Thank you for the great, often unnoticed, you do. Your posts are always enlightening and educating. Have a great time and I hope during your Christmas shopping you have many goodbys.
Maybe we should give him a spelling lesson for his Christmas. Many thanks for your blogs Andy. Regards to you.
Maybe he means Goodboy.
Keep up the good work .
I don’t understand why landlords of estates want to keep the public from walking through their land . Does the landlord not want people to see birds of prey in the Scottish countryside ??.
Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous and Happy New Year .
Probably not, doesn’t want folks to see what’s going on.
I heard a report the other day of a Golden Eagle that had moved from Loch Tay into Angus being found poisoned; and that’s not unfortunately an isolated incident.
The wood across the field opposite my cottage has just been clear felled and left two Buzzards homeless; they have been flying around like lost souls looking for a new place to perch.