Alladale


Fellow passengers on the flight back from Cardiff to Glasgow must have worried that they were sitting close to someone extremely unstable as I read last weeks Spectator magazine. Not only had I nearly choked on my gin and tonic but now I had begum muttering under my breath and dark thoughts clearly spread across my face, possibly the air stewards worried for their safety.

The formidable public relations exercise that is Paul Lister and the Alladale Estate had been in full operation again, inviting Lisa Marie Johnson who writes the Armchair Traveller column, for a stay at the lodge resulting in a glowing report of the “re-wilding” vision. Apparently the reason Lister wishes to re-wild Alladale is easily explained; “It ticks all the boxes: economics, ecology, the environment, education and employment.”  It is a shame the fence is a headache for the scheme as those of us in the “Right to Roam brigade doesn’t like the idea, for a start.” Damn right we don’t and we also don’t like someone coming along thinking that a piece of legislation does not apply to them. However, “Lister believes he will get round these hurdles” no doubt by browbeating politicians and bureaucrats into turning a blind eye to this particular scheme as it’s really about the environment rather than making money.

He has obviously converted the two bothies at the head of Glen Alladale into luxury eco-bothies to save the environment as well, in an effort to put off that nasty Right to Roam brigade from despoiling our landscape. Add to that, his plans to redevelop a second lodge into a six-suite hotel and we have an environmental haven! I have no problems with Highland Estates diversifying in an attempt to survive, but please do not use your spin machine to wrap it up in this eco-nonsense. Be honest it’s to make more money and you don’t care about riding roughshod over everything else to do so. Alas, this spin machine is ultra-efficient and many of those reporting this saga, including the BBC and now the Spectator, fail to explain the real vision being built at Alladale.

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Over at the Walk Highlands forum Big Bertie has asked for details of the Highland Council Access Officer responsible for the Alladale area so that any objections to the wildlife park plan can be registered.

The details are:

Mr Matt Dent
Access Officer – Sutherland
Planning & Development Service
Service Point
New Buildings
Main Street
Lairg
IV27 4DB

Tel/fax: (01549) 402729
E-mail:
matt.dent@highland.gov.uk

Remember that at the moment no plan has been submitted by Alladale Estate to create this wildlife park. However, it will do no harm for those of us in the outdoors community to make Highland Council aware of our concerns of the possible restriction of access across the Alladale Estate. All local authorities in Scotland have a duty to establish Local Access Forums where issues about access can be dealt with. The Alladale Estate falls within the Sutherland Local Access Forum area and I have details about the membership of that forum. I will do some research to find out contact details so those members can be contacted directly as well.

Continuing my research I have looked back at the minutes of this forum since its establishment in 2005 for any discussions about access on the Alladale Estate. The only reference is from August 2007:

7. Wildlife Park, Alladale

Mr B Field referred to recent reports concerning the proposal to create a wildlife park at Alladale, covering an area of 23,000 acres. He expressed concern at the potential for dangerous wild animals to be located over such a vast area, and the associated risks for walkers.

Mr G Robson reported that currently the Park extends over 500 hectares, and there is an existing compound which contains elk and wild boar, and in relation to which there have been no significant issues arising. However any proposal to extend this enclosure may involve the developer having to apply for planning permission for change of use, a zoo licence and access exemptions, the latter of which would require the Forum to be formally consulted.

It was agreed to note the position meantime.”

It’s interesting that the forum members thought that a 3 metre high fence extending to some 5 miles that has already been erected is not a significant issue. Surely, this creates a significant restriction to access, even with the inclusion of gates along the fence. I think that I shall attempt to make my own research rip to Alladale to see the extent of the project established so far for myself. At the same time I will be writing to the Highland Council, under the Freedom of Information Act, to find out what objections have been received by third parties to the existing fence and also what discussions have been held between council officers and the estate. If you have any other questions you think I should ask let me know.