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News | 27th December 2020
 

Ploughing halted after breach of conditions

Forestry watchdog steps in to investigate the loss of deep peat

 
 
 

SCOTTISH Forestry halted work on a forestry planting scheme near Langholm after it discovered the company was not complying with the conditions.

The agency was alerted to the possibility that landowner James Jones & Sons Ltd of Lockerbie was ploughing deep peat, which is not allowed, at Tansy Hill.

The site is on Cleuchfoot Farm, a former sheep farm tenanted by David and Alison Telfer.

Through social media Matt Cross, a campaigner against vast monoculture forestry, contacted Scottish Forestry and alerted officials.

He had seen photos of the planting and was concerned by what they showed.

Last Friday a Scottish Forestry spokesperson said: “We were grateful to be alerted to the ground preparation works at this tree planting site.

“The concerns raised were that contractors on the privately-owned site had broken UK Forestry Standards and had ploughed into deep peat above the allowed depth.

“Deep peat is very important in sequestering and locking up harmful C02 emissions so no-one should be planting on deep peat below 50 cm.

“Our woodland officers visited the site very quickly and sampled various parts of the groundworks.

“Initial investigations found that on at least one occasion these regulations on deep peat had been broken.

“Subsequently, we asked work on the site to stop immediately, pending further investigations.

“This is normal practice when we find works which appear not to be complying with forestry regulations.

“We now intend to carry out a more detailed analysis at the site before we decide on the next steps.

“We have a number of regulatory and enforcement options available to us. They could include corrective action to reinstate the site so the deep peat is fully restored.”

The spokeperson updated the situation on Monday and added: “We had a positive meeting with the contractor on the site and they have agreed a plan to reinstate the very small area of deep peat which was disturbed outwith our guidelines.

This is a satisfactory outcome and we are pleased quick action is being undertaken.”

He added that less than a hectare of deep peat was disturbed out of the 30 hectares which had been ploughed.

He added said: “We have been discussing remediation measures with the contractor and will revisit the site once we are informed that these works have been completed.

“All sites are inspected as part of our ongoing work and any other sites, which are submitted in the area, will be inspected.”

An RSPB spokesperson said: “We support woodland expansion in Scotland, especially of native woodlands, given the nature and carbon benefits they can provide.

“Where trees are located, whatever their purpose, is really important to prevent damage to areas of existing high nature and carbon value.

“For this reason, planting on deep peat is not allowed and surveys are required to prevent this.

“On the face of it, this planting schemes appears to be on peaty soils and we wonder whether all the necessary checks and detailed surveys have been made before the application and before consent was given. “It feels like the system needs tightening up to avoid this kind of thing happening and we look to landowners, forest agents and Scottish Forestry to make sure this happens.”

Oliver Mundell, Dumfriesshire MSP, said: “The events at Tansy Hill have confirmed many people’s worst fears about commercial forestry.

“It is clear that profits are being put before the environment and the rules ignored.

“I’m worried this is not an isolated incident and I would like Scottish Forestry’s investigations to look back at some of the other recent planting in Eskdale and commit to closer inspections of future controversial plans, including at Warblaw.

“Not only should planting on peat be ringing alarm bells but so too should be the need for such speed. Large chunks of good farmland and open hill are being replaced by a monoculture of sitka spruce.

“I have asked the government to confirm whether it’s aware of the situation and plan to take the matter further.”

A query was also raised with Dumfries and Galloway Council’s planning authority by a member of the public about the bridge built over the Logan Water.

A council spokesperson said: “Planning permission was granted on October 16 for a bridge. There were no planning conditions attached to the consent.
“It was brought to our attention that works had begun at the site. The matter was investigated and there are no breaches of planning control at this time.”

 
 
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