What is it about Golf Courses and Ancient Woods?

**UPDATE**

After the Forest Pines planning application was refused planning permission by North Lincolnshire Council the applicant appealed the decision. The Public Inquiry into the case is due to start on Tuesday 18th August 2009. The Woodland Trust strongly believe that the golf course will cause loss of and damage to ancient woodland and are putting several expert witnesses to defend the woodland.

You can lend your support by attending on the first day of the Inquiry to register that you object. It starts at 10am North Lincs Council offices, Pittwood House, Scunthorpe.

 **UPDATE**

Why is it that when a golf course owner sees an area of ancient woodland, he thinks it would look so much better with half the trees cut down and poster-paint green grass as replacement for the forest floor?

This question comes up time and again in the Woods Under Threat team.  Some of you will know about the work we have been doing at Forest Pines in Lincolnshire and the ongoing discussions that have followed the planning committee’s decision.

Well, now we have yet another golf course case, this time on the shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland.  Golf courses provide only a small amount of our ‘woods under threat’ cases around the UK but each application gives us plenty of frustration – because of the sheer size of developments, the threat to woodland can be substantial.  In fact, golf courses represent the largest area of ancient woodland loss overall.  And this particular case is more complicated than usual.

In the 1990s Argyll and Bute Council gave permission for three golf courses on consecutive areas of the western shore of the Loch. Two of these, north and south, were built and have been in operation for some time. The current planning application is for a third course – this originally received only outline permission for the middle section of shore line, which meant that more detailed plans for the third course would need to be submitted. It is a decision on this application which is awaited now.

In the meantime however, the whole area has become part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, and the planning policy framework in Scotland has changed radically. What Argyll and Bute Council once saw as a scheme to boost the economic future for the area now contradicts the National Park aims of conserving and enhancing the natural and cultural heritage of the area.  Good news for the woodland, then?  Or at least you would have thought so.

The National Park Authority has said it feels that it has no power to oppose the proposal as permission was previously given by the planning authority. Previous applications have always claimed that the economic good outweighs the environmental damage, but recent reportssuggest that all might not be quite so rosy in the golf world and there also is speculation that the owner of both the Loch Lomond course and the new course may be facing financial uncertainty.

And why does the Woodland Trust care?  The area to be converted into a flat, smooth golf green consists of a site of beautiful wood pasture, Rossdhu Park SSSI, with ancient woodlands Finlas Water and Allt a’ Ghuallian Wood at top and bottom respectively. The plans recognise that the woods are ancient. Yet the developers seem to believe that management of the area would actually be improved by the introduction of a golf course – plans which require the removal of over 900 trees and large scale change of the topography to raise the playable areas above the water table.  We don’t agree.

All is in a state of flux, the next planning committee meeting to discuss the issue is on 17 November – we’ll let you know what happens..


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