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Fury at proposals for tree planting

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Fury at proposals for tree planting

CONCERNS are growing in Eskdale about proposals for tree planting on three former farms at Claygate, described by opponents as ‘modern day clearances’.

The commercial plans by James Jones Ltd centre on land at Albierigg, Greenburn and Glencartholm, which were formerly part of Buccleuch Estates.

Public consultation exercises were carried out on the schemes but residents now say they were not extensive enough and that their concerns have grown as more details have emerged.

Ali McKnight who grew up on Glencartholm Farm, has carried out her own survey of local views, with 85 responses, the majority of whom lived within five miles of the trio of sites.

She said: “Comments received from the survey were alarming, referring to a modern day clearances.

“Eighty per cent of responders were against the proposals, 13 per cent for and seven per cent undecided. An alarming 65 per cent were not aware of any previous consultation being carried out and only 21 per cent actually contributed to the consultation.

“While some respondents supported more trees, the vast majority commented on the short-sightedness of this operation the loss of food production as well as wildlife, the degradation of landscape value, erosion, the loss of community and opportunities for young farmers and how the land will be lost forever.”

Ali herself believes the planting would have cultural, environmental and economic implications and says it has left her “utterly dismayed”.

She has contacted Scottish Forestry, The Scottish Land Commission and MSPs with her concerns and is calling for Rural Affairs and Land Reform Secretary Mairi Gougeon to visit the area and meet worried residents.

However, she admits her efforts could be in vain and too late, adding: “Plans now seem to be set in stone.

“Nonetheless, Claygate intend to join forces with others in the same position urging for a cessation on plans until concerns can be addressed.

“The value of this farmland for multi-functional land use is obvious. Not only did the farms support food production and three farming families but valuable biodiversity and with an agenda of sustainable farming ahead, where farms are recognised as proving multiple public benefit, to lose these areas, already with a high component of surrounding woodland, is nothing short of rural, political crime.”

Scottish Woodlands Ltd carried out the consultations for the sites and a document on their website named ‘Albierigg and Glencartholm Woodland Creation Proposals’ says: “We are aware of the concerns about scale of woodland creation and land use change in the wider area.”

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