South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Colin Smyth is encouraging a forestry firm to rethink their plans to use narrow single track public roads near the village of Tynron as part of proposals to plant a million trees at Cormilligan near the village.
Last year Tillhill Forestry bought the 700-hectare site near Tynron Village and plan to use 400 hectares for tree planting for timber.
As part of the proposals, they are developing a voluntary agreement with Dumfries and Galloway Council to use certain roads for timber transport into and out of the site and the company plan to put in place some lay-bys and other improvements on the narrow roads to allow passing places. Such agreements are routinely used by the industry, with routes forming part of the voluntary Timber Transport Forums Agreed Route Maps, although the use of the routes cannot be enforced by the council and technically timber firms can use any public road. Agreed routes can often be eligible for funding from the Scottish Government through the Timber Transport Fund to carry out upgrades, but this funding has to matched by the local council who have to contribute between 30-50% of the cost.
However, Colin Smyth shares the concerns of local residents that the planned routes, which include narrow single track roads, aren’t suitable for more timber transport and their use would have an adverse impact on the local community. He is urging the company to ditch the planned routes and negotiate with the nearby owners of a private road- the Heads of the Valley road – to use that route which would give more direct access to the A76 and cut down on the use of public roads near Tynron. The Heads of the Valley road is currently used by the Forestry Commission to extract timber from their sites nearby.
Colin Smyth’s call for a rethink by the forestry firm come after the local MSP attended a public meeting last night (14th May) organised by Tynron Community Council at Tynron Parish Hall to allow local residents to express their views on the proposals by the company. The meeting was attended by representatives of Tillhill Forestry, Dumfries and Galloway Council Roads Department and the Forestry Commission and residents expressed their concerns over the impact the planned commercial forestry development would have on roads, but also the heritage of the planned site.
Commenting after the meeting Colin Smyth said, “The local community in and around Tynron already face many problems with timber transport on what are very fragile single track roads which suffer a lot of damage and there is a real worry that more commercial forestry in the area will simply add to these problems. Although voluntary agreements with the council are likely to lead to limits on the number of timber vehicles per day and some upgrades to existing roads to allow passing places, the plans for an extra million trees at Cormilligan are inevitably going to add to the strain on roads that were never built to cope with timber vehicles. It’s clear that there are alternative routes that would minimise the impact on the public road network such as the Head the Valley road and I would urge Tillhill Forestry to consider ditching their existing plans and using these alternatives which would give a more direct route onto the A76”.
“When the current commercial forestry sites near the village end extraction, local people thought that would mean a reduction in the problems they face with timber vehicles. But the plans for Cormilligan mean those problems are now likely to continue for a few more decades and that is hugely frustrating for a community that already has to put up with the impact of timber vehicles using these narrow roads every day. Many people locally would like to see Tillhill Forest drop their proposals for a commercial forest in the area but at the very least they would want them to use alternative roads that limit the impact on the community”.
“The Scottish Government’s target to increase tree planting from 10,000 to 15,000 hectares per year by 2025- an increase from 22 million to 33 million trees – means we are likely to have many more issues similar to the one faced in Tynron unless the industry adapts and becomes more sympathetic when it comes to finding the best routes to allow vehicles in to plant trees and extract the timber when it has matured”.