BY MICHAEL RUSSELL
Scottish Natural Heritage will object to a planning application for six houses in Staffin, north Skye, where no affordable homes have been built since 1999.
Local MSP Kate Forbes this week criticised SNH for blocking the plans for common grazing land in Stenscholl which was earmarked for housing by the Staffin Community Trust two years ago following a call for sites. The environmental watchdog is concerned about “visual impact” on the Trotternish National Scenic Area if the houses are built on the site in question.
Sandy Ogilvie, chairman of the community trust, said it was “very sad” to hear that SNH will object to badly-needed housing in a fragile area.
He added: “Good-quality affordable housing is essential to the sustainability of any small community, and that’s what Staffin is. This proposal will impact not one jot on the NSA – they are very low-level buildings that are almost in a dip, on land that is good for little else and isn’t used. There was a whole process surrounding the selection of this site and we looked at many others too. It’s not as if we just plucked this one out of the blue.”
The trust plan to submit a planning application to Highland Council by next summer.
Ms Forbes (pictured) added: “If upheld SNH’s objection in the name of scenic beauty could put the community trust back at square one and, within the decade, the local primary school will have no young students. We have a moral, economic and social prerogative to protect our flora and fauna, but there’s one endangered species that is greatly at risk and that is people.”
No one from SNH was available for comment as we went to press.
Ms Forbes also highlighted a recent study which estimated that the Highlands lacked 18,000 young people in the 15-30-year-old bracket and said that “draconian” planning policies could result in a second generation being lost.
She added: “Some view the Highlands and Islands as a museum, a place where artefacts take precedence over people. Don’t touch. Don’t shout. Don’t run. And definitely don’t spoil it for everybody else.
“That’s fair enough at the Louvre, the National Library or an Historic Scotland property. But apply the same rules to communities and you suck the life out of them.”