A meeting, to take place on September 29th in Boat of Garten Village Hall, is expected to be a benchmark case of Highland Council's commitment to biodiversity within the proposed Cairngorms National Park. The decision will be taken on whether or not a retirement house can be built on what is known to be a site of extraordinary importance for biodiversity conservation. The importance is based on the fact that the site is not only recognised as Strathspey's finest orchid meadow but it also supports twelve species of moth that are locally or nationally rare and as such it is one of the most important sites of its kind in the Highlands. Five of these moth species are classified as Red Data Book species.

Concerned members of the public and experts from across Scotland, and as far afield as New Zealand, have contacted Highland Council planners to urge that the Local Plan, with which the house application conflicts, is upheld. This planning application is the first one in Scotland that the charity Butterfly Conservation has ever objected to. It should be noted that Butterfly Conservation has 10,000 members making it the largest insect conservation charity in Europe.

Further concerns have been raised by Green Tourism Businesses who realise that destroying the un-developed character of the site, adjacent to the Inverness to Dover National Cycle Route on the B970, is completely counter to the on-going efforts to sustain local livelihoods in the growing green tourism sector. The site is also used by badgers which are believed to be part of a group that have delighted many visitors to the nearby Strathspey Badger Hide.

Rare butterflies from the site include the Northern Brown Argus and Pearl-Bordered Fritillary. The only reliable recording of the White Winged Vetchling (Leucoptera orobi) to be made in Britain in the last 30 years has been made on this site making it a trophy for the Cairngorms as a whole. It is surely a classic example of why this area is planned for National Park protection. Unless common sense is used in as clear a case as this there is real danger that the biodiversity of the area will be annihilated rather than nurtured. Another example for this site is the caterpillar which feeds on birch, the Barbed Birch Tortrix (Ancylis tineana), this meadow is one of the only three sites where it is found in the UK. Rarities recently recorded here include the Chequered Click Beetle and a heathland and a woodland form of the Lesser Butterfly Orchid.

OK you might not recognised any of these species if you found them in your garden this afternoon - but if we are serious about protecting our heritage it does not take the "Brain of Britain" to realise a more suitable site must be found for this new house - regardless of owner.

JENNIFER COOK, September 2000

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