Fury over forest plans on Tam O’Shanter site
Gill Warnock with the solar panels on the roof behind her in Balmaclellan
Glenkens residents have hit out at plans to create a new forest on a landscape said to be the inspiration for Tam O’Shanter.
Community councils are unhappy at proposals to plant Sitka spruce on Waterside Hill near New Galloway.
Scottish Woodlands is working on the plan to create the forest, which they say will also feature Scots pine, oak and mixed native broadleave trees.
Dalry Community Council’s Andrew Bielinski said: “Waterside isn’t a very big hill but it’s a fairly prominent hill, it is the backdrop to Dalry and populating with Sitka spruce is not the appropriate thing to do.
“We are not anti-tree planting but it is not an appropriate site for Sitka spruce planting.
“If it was broadleaf trees mixed with grazing land that would be better.
“The Southern Upland Way goes through it and Forestry and Land Scotland have done a lot of work opening it up.
“There is a stunning view from the top but that will be lost.”
The community council has written to local politicians calling for them to oppose the proposal, with other community councils in the area also against the plans.
Among them are Corsock and Kirkpatrick Durham Community Council, whose chairman Joe Seed said: “It’s an important walking and exercise site for the village as well as having the Southern Upland Way going through it.
“In the Dumfries and Galloway forestry strategy is marked as an area for ‘preferred’ planting of hardwoods not softwoods and in all the forest strategies the main objectives are to create plantations that the local community are happy and engaged with. That’s not happening.”
A regional council walking guide to the area claims that in the 18th century, farmer Adam Forrester was riding home from the inn when he discovered some witches at a church. They then chased him over Waterside Hill, but before reaching the summit Forrester drew a circle around them with his sword.
They were unable to break through the circle and eventually gave up. The story is thought to be that of the real Tam O’Shanter that features in the poem by Robert Burns.
Dalry Community Council is currently seeking an extension to the consultation period, due to end on July 16, so that they can hold a public meeting on July 20.
Mr Bielinski claimed they had not been properly consulted and that Scottish Woodlands were due to attend a community council meeting but cancelled at short notice.
However, Scottish Woodlands’ assistant regional manager, Alison Wallace, said the community council was one of a number of consultees sent the initial proposal at the start of last year and she would be happy to attend one of its meetings.
A public meeting was held at the CatStrand in New Galloway while other people had discussed the scheme at Scottish Woodlands’ office, resulting in refinements being made.
Mrs Wallace said: “The current design keeps the full top of Waterside hill free from planting and preserves the views even when the trees reach majority.
“The Southern Upland Way has been protected with large buffer zones and much of it is lined by broadleaves up the side of Waterside Hill and where the scheme links in with the oak woods in the Garroch Glen.
“It is important for us all to realise that schemes like this are needed as a central part of the Scottish Government’s legally binding climate change targets passed by Parliament last September.
“This scheme has been proposed following all the best practise guidance and would produce quality certified timber while sustaining long terms jobs in this and many other rural communities.
“I believe this scheme now accommodates the recreational and environmental issues raised by the original draft and thank the local people who have helped in that design process.”
She also denied claims it would be entirely Sitka spruce with Scots pine, oak and broadleaves also planned.
Forestry plan concerns Andrew Bielinski of Dalry Community Council