Buzzardtastic – Why our City Wildlife Sites like Craighouse are so Important (until 4th July to Object)

Buzzard over New Craigdetail

Buzzard gliding over New Craig detail sent in by local birdwatcher

ONLY TIL FRI MIDNIGHT TO GO:  A QUICK HOW TO OBJECT: Object to Excessive “Scheme 3″  (Ref No: 12/04007/SCH3) and include your name and address. Include at least one material planning objection and anything else you want to say. For more on How to Object and an example paragraph click here: https://friendsofcraighouse.com/how-to-object/

As you will know from the Council’s attempt to remove large areas of Craighouse from the Local Biodiversity Site designation, the Council’s wildlife data Buzzard over New Craig2kept on Craighouse is extremely poor.

TWIC (the Wildlife Information Centre) holds all the information for the Council. But this information is then sold to developers. But not available to members of the public. This leaves local people in a quandary about whether or not to submit their data to these organisations.

TWIC holds a birdlist for the entire Easter Craiglockhart Hill site. It has one bird on it. The magpie.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus web

A baby long-tailed tit photographed at Craighouse by Fiona Mackay

Anyone on the site today can instantly see this isn’t true. Two pairs of buzzards are circling the site today – one pair is wheeling over Bevan. The other pair are wheeling over the site proposed for the new “Burton” block. Last year, there was a very noisy baby who crashed all about the site for all to see. This year it seems we have two pairs – and locals have said to me they think that a pair have moved from the Royal Edinburgh Site which, of course, is being developed.

In addition to these large raptors – not mentioned on TWIC’s birdlists – sparrowhawks are also residents and have been seen mobbing the buzzards watched by local residents. Peregrine falcons have also been sighted this year.  There are kestrels that are sighted on the LNR and also on the orchard. I have frequently seen a kestrel on the central group of apple trees and there is often kestrels hovering on the LNR.

Baccha elongata

Baccha elongata Wildlife needs the small fauna and flora to be established in order to maintain a strong eco-system. Mature woodland cannot be mitigated against by simply planting saplings. It is the established nature of woods and their eco-systems that is so valuable.

Information about the marked protected breeding sites is held by Hawkwatch, part of Scottish Natural Heritage. This is secret to the general public but not to the Council and would have been made available to the developers too. So why did TWIC not ask SNH and Hawkwatch for their wildlife data when they gave the data on the site to the Council that was to be used for the Local Biodiversity Site boundary? Why did the Council not obtain the data held by SNH, Hawkwatch, Lothian Badger Group etc when they decided to try to redesignate large chunks of the Craighouse site to remove areas from the Local Biodiversity Site designation (and protection)? Many of these areas appear to be under carparking in the Craighouse Partnership Scheme 3. If they had, they could never have produced that famous birdlist of one – the magpie.

The Scheme 3 development will have a negative impact on the wildlife of Craighouse – with the homes of protected species being destroyed, disrupted and feeding grounds lost to excessive development and carparking. The Environmental Assessment undertaken by the developer is incomplete with surveys left incomplete.

Apart from all of this, however, is a far more simple issue. Craighouse is a Local Nature Conservation Site because of the wildlife, the mosaic of habitats (described as “exceptional” for a city environment by the Conservation Area Appraisal) but also because of the accessibility and ability of local people to see and enjoy that wildlife.

One person at a Morningside Community Council meeting a few months ago described the magic of seeing a deer’s footprints in the snow. People have told us about the birds, the mammals, the goldcrests, the woodpeckers, the owls, the long-tailed tits, the birds of prey, the deer- and yes, the badgers they have seen on the site. There are the magnificent buzzards and the excitement of perhaps catching sight of a peregrine – but there are also the smaller pleasures of meeting a toad, as the children on the litter pick did the other day – or the three gorgeous baby owls that caused so much excitement for so many locals this year. There are woodpeckers all round the site (I have heard and seen them year on year) and there has been an exciting sighting of what is thought to be a Holly Blue (extremely rare in Scotland) – on the area due to be destroyed by the enormous building, Burton. Another frequent visitor – a bee expert -reported a sighting of black bees to us.

CraighouseMeadowCuckooflower

Cuckoo Flower in Craighouse meadow

There is a wonderful resource of people around this special sight willing and able to work with the Council to collect data on the wildlife in order to protect and enhance that wildlife.

All around the site, the local area has been built on over the years. All the areas around Craighouse are now developed – many in quite recent years – removing the places wildlife previously could be seen and enjoyed. Other green sites rich in wildlife are also being developed with the Royal Edinburgh Hospital seeing wildlife coming off the site and traveling to Craighouse (such as the second pair of buzzards). The question to be asked is – how do we protect our wildlife? And how do we protect such a very special wildlife space in the city for the people of Edinburgh to enjoy?

Mitigation is known to be a dodgy territory. The idea that the loss of large sections of mature woodland can be mitigated against by planting lots of saplings (that appear mainly designed to hide the new buildings) simply does not work. You cannot replace the biodiversity value of mature woodland. Not for several generations. We are talking about entire eco-systems here from the insects to the fungi – all of which are established over time and which feed and support other species. The presence of lots of birds of prey -such as at Craighouse – shows that there is a strong eco-system here going all the way up the food-chain.

Craighouse is protected as a Local Nature Conservation Site and an Area of Great Landscape Value. All the trees on the site are protected with the equivalent of Tree Protection Orders on them. But what does any of this mean if developers can destroy the protected sites of protected species, take down 90 mature protected trees, destroy feeding areas of protected species and cut off the access our wild creatures have from the woodland into the open space (used for feeding) on what is supposed to be a site protected in terms of Nature and Wildlife?

What does it mean for the city’s other protected sites? Hermitage? Blackford Hill? Corstorphine Hill? Midmar Paddock?

Under the Friends of Craighouse Alternative Plan, which is based on the development of the listed buildings without the need for excessive newbuild – large areas of woodland would not need to be destroyed for excessive newbuild and parking. The grounds will be managed in such a way that it can remain a haven for wildlife, for generations now and in the future to watch and discover.

Developing the listed buildings will cause far less disruption to the site. Under the Craighouse Partnership plans ,  there will be more newbuild than all the listed building put together – mainly in large apartment or housing blocks. These take out sites of protected species and have the associated major disruption and mess of these 6 newbuild development sites and their associated infrastructure (unnecessary if the listed buildings were developed alone or with a very limited amount of newbuild). This is luxury housing, therefore nothing to do with housing need. The site will be severely disrupted and in a mess until at least 2020. That is a lot of years missed by local people and local children who could be out enjoying this superb place.

Under the Alternative Forward Plan, the listed buildings will be developed with a plan that is based on getting the profit out of the listed buildings – not excessive newbuild. They will be developed as smaller separate projects, whilst the land will be safe-guarded for the community. This means the site will not be cut off or become inaccessible for many years with far less disruption to both the site itself, the wildlife who live there – and people’s lives – those who regularly walk on and use this wonderful site.

It can remain a haven for wildlife short and long term and a haven for the people who want to enjoy this very beautiful place – keeping it accessible, with benches restored and the spectacular views remaining open and protected as they are supposed to be – not destroyed by inappropriate buildings and the forestation of the open parkland – a part of the Craighouse Partnership’s poor attempt at mitigation which shows no understanding of the nature or history of this particular landscape.

Please do all you can to tell people what is happening so they can object to ugly plans that show no proper understanding of the nature or the landscape of this special place. Craighouse could have a very bright future – but we have to fight to enable that to happen.

Please spread the word. Objections by midnight on Fri 4th July – for more and an example paragraph click here: https://friendsofcraighouse.com/how-to-object/

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2 Responses to Buzzardtastic – Why our City Wildlife Sites like Craighouse are so Important (until 4th July to Object)

  1. julietwilson says:

    TWIC should have all my bird records from the site, at the very least. They should be an independent source of information and used to be when I was a volunteer then (back before they were called TWIC). It’s the same for Cammo Fields, the developer for the proposed totally inappropriate development for that site claims ony three species of birds are seen there, despite knowing (because I’ve told them) that there are five rare species regularly seen there. Again TWIC should have the information. It’s totally outrageous that TWIC are holding onto information and not sharing it. They should use all the information they have and share it for free with the general public, not just sell it to the developers

  2. rosyb says:

    Hi Juliet, That’s really interesting. I don’t know if TWIC will have updated their records since the notorious one-bird survey! I hope so. I will check when I’ve got time again after the deadline on Fri. I spent a lot of time on the phone today (not to TWIC) and was told that I had to go about contacting every single organisation to try and get data – because they aren’t properly synchronised. My question is why didn’t TWIC and the Council do that before they decided to mess about with the LBS designation. And certainly they needed to do it once it was revealed that a proper process hadn’t been followed and they had to review it. For the original LBS boundary data, however, they did not refer to these myriad other organisations and I saw no evidence of their having been consulted. It was only by bumping into a volunteer for one of these organisations that I got to know about their existence!

    Today I was trying to find out why developers have access to top secret wildlife information about wildlife and animal homes and areas that they are wanting to destroy…but the public cannot have access to this information. There are some creatures that nasty people may harm etc etc and also animal homes that may be disrupted…but withholding this information for these reasons but giving it to a developer who wants to wholesale destroy some of these sites – well, just let’s say, the irony isn’t lost.

    It becomes very frustrating when other organisations who should know about these matters even on a confidential basis (for example local wildlife groups or even community councils) have no way of having access to this information, are not made aware of this information and therefore cannot defend these areas or make informed objections on the basis on such information.
    They only have access to sanitised and incomplete reports from the developers themselves – about which SNH was extremely critical in relation to Scheme 2.

    This is not an issue that just affects Craighouse. It is very concerning in relation to development, and the dodgy idea of “mitigating” anything and everything that has replaced proper conservation or protection of wildlife, green sites and sensitive sites.

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