Hostile reception for environmentally friendly community plan

AT PRESENT the residents of Kilnhill Wood consist of deer, badgers, red squirrels and a few species of bat.

But under a plan to be considered this month, they could soon be sharing their woodland habitat with human neighbours.

The Forestry Commission Scotland wants to establish an environmentally friendly community that would showcase modern green principles within the ancient tradition of living and working in a forest.

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But the proposal to set up the demonstration site in the 123-acre Kilnhill Wood, near Nairn, is seen as unrealistic and unviable by many in the area.

An opposition group, Friends of Kilnhill Wood, has been established and 300 people have signed a petition against the scheme.

The plan due to come before Highland Council envisages 32 timber-built homes, some of which will be affordable housing, as well as holiday homes and possibly rural businesses.

The community will use wind and solar energy and there will be an emphasis on recycling, home working and reduced car dependence.

The community will be run by trustees with shared ideas on how to manage and develop the Scots pine wood and ensure there is "minimal impact".

Phil Whitfield, of Forestry Commission Scotland, said it could help revitalise rural areas by providing affordable and environmentally-sound housing.

A public consultation and exhibition was held at the end of last year. However, many local people remain unconvinced.

The Nairn Woodlands and Wetlands Association say the wood is too wet and the infrastructure needed, including sewerage treatment works, would make it too expensive.

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"It is going to be a damp, cold unattractive site for houses, with no view, no focus and no sense of community," the group says.

And it argues the suggestion of establishing a trust is also unrealistic: "On this site it will be a hopeless model. No sensible person would invest in it."

Stephen Gray, chairman of the Friends of Kilnhill Wood, said local residents want the site protected.

He said: "Our community, which is using the woodland, are going to get that taken away from them and replaced by a community of a certain way of thinking."

Mr Gray is also concerned that animals will be driven out.

He added: "We are desperate for low-cost housing … but this is a money-making exercise which has been dressed up using buzz words like 'eco-friendly' and 'affordable housing'.

"People living there will also be four miles from the nearest shop. That does not fit with a low car usage community."

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