BCT has issued a letter to members outlining our position following the planning decision.
Read more about the letter and previous statements
“Following the decision of Aberdeenshire Council to approve planning permission, Birse Community
Trust would like to communicate the Trustees’ position on the siting of the proposed
telecommunications mast in the Forest of Birse pinewoods.
From the start the Trustees agreed to respect the planning process, giving it the opportunity to run
its course without undue interference. When considering the application and assessing the
outcomes, the Trustees were required to ensure their remit within the BCT’s Memorandum and
Articles was carried out:
1) To protect the North Hill Pinewoods and their flora and fauna as stated below:
“protect, conserve, regenerate and promote, for the benefit of the public, the restoration of the
native woodlands, including their flora and fauna, and other assets in the Parish of Birse,
Aberdeenshire, as an important part of Scotland’s natural environment”.
“to initiate and support local and national initiatives which aim to extend native woodlands
significantly within Scotland by improving the cultural, educational and recreational aspects of native
woodlands and by rebuilding the social relationship between the communities of Scotland and their
As a result of environmental impact studies carried out by independent experts, it was clear that the
proposed location for the mast development would contravene protection of the North Hill
2) To protect the ancient, shared rights invested in BCT by the people of the parish of Birse:
In 1998, the ancient, shared rights over the Commonty (c4000 ha) were vested in Birse Community
Trust, to be managed on behalf of the community of Birse parish. Any development on the
Commonty happens with the consensus of the three Commonty parties (BCT, Ballogie Estate and
Birse Estate). BCT respects that important relationship.
BCT manages the North Hill Pinewoods (in which the mast is proposed) as an area of naturally
regenerating Caledonian pinewood. Exercising the shared rights has enabled BCT and the community
together to plant tens of thousands of trees and allowed many more to naturally regenerate,
creating the Caledonian Pinewood we have here today. The North Hill Pinewoods are managed by
BCT on behalf of the community together with Ballogie and Birse estates. It was clear that without
detail on how lease agreements would be drawn up, there was a risk to the protection of the shared
Throughout the planning process, BCT has sought clarification on the natural heritage issues from
the developer but has not been able to access all the environmental information the planners used
to reach their decision. Trustees remain concerned by the impact of this proposal and are bound by
the Memorandum of Articles to oppose this particular site unless these concerns are answered
BCT are requesting access to the information and will continue to assess our position as this
BCT Trustees are not opposed to the development of a communications mast in the Forest of Birse,
and actively recognise the potential benefits it might bring, but we must consider each site on its
individual merits, particularly the impact on the flora and fauna and the shared rights.
Birse Community Trust welcomes the recommendation by Aberdeenshire Council’s Natural Environment Team (23 June 2023) to refuse the application for a mast on the highly sensitive North Hill.
Nearly 25 years ago the ancient shared rights over the Forest of Birse Commonty were conveyed to Birse Community Trust. BCT, working with our Commonty partners, has actively managed those rights, including through the visionary initiative for the natural regeneration of the native pinewood on the area known as the North Hill. We are delighted that the Environment Team’s report recognises the natural heritage value of the North Hill, an area that has recently received further recognition through a nomination to the 2023 Nature of Scotland Awards Landscape Restoration category.
To find out more about the history and natural heritage of the Commonty and the North Hill visit the BCT website ‘Reports’ pages, ‘Cultural and Natural History’ where reports include a Forest of Birse Commonty Pinewoods – Statement of Significance (2023).
There is also The Forest of Birse Native Pinewoods: Biodiversity and Importance of the Habitat (2021).
10/03/2023 – NORTH HILL MAST OBJECTION
The North Hill Pinewoods form part of the Forest of Birse Local Nature Conservation Site and are within the Clachnaben and Forest of Birse Special Landscape Area. The forest is native regenerating pinewoods, and home to some of our iconic wildlife, including the rapidly declining capercaillie. Native pinewoods have been in the news lately highlighting just how special and vulnerable this habitat is. Part of the North Hill Pinewoods importance is its connectivity between neighbouring native pinewoods and Ancient Woodlands allowing rare pinewood species to move around and live in these forests, species that need large safe home ranges like some of our larger raptor species and the capercaillie that needs large areas of undisturbed pinewoods, away from tracks and people.
If you would like to object to the siting of the proposed mast, please contact Aberdeenshire Council Planning before the closing date of 23rd March 2023,
and type in the reference APP/2023/0319
A brief summary of the BCT objection is given below…
We object to application APP/2023/0319. The proposal does not comply with the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan (LDP) 2023. The North Hill pinewoods are designated in the LDP under the Clachnaben and Forest of Birse Special Landscape Area and as a Local Nature Conservation Site. They are noted as Native Woodland in the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland. The North Hill pinewoods are managed by the community for their natural heritage value, including their role in linking areas on the National Caledonian Pinewood Inventory with the ensuing benefits to habitat and biodiversity. The proposal would have a significant detrimental impact on the landscape value of the Forest of Birse and an irreversible impact on the flora and fauna of the Caledonian Pinewood, including schedule 1A raptors and the critically endangered Capercaillie.
03/03/2023 – STATEMENT ON THE PROPOSED MAST- North Hill, Forest of Birse
Birse Community Trust was made aware of a proposal for a 25m mast on the Forest of Birse Commonty in February 2023. The proposed site is on the area of ground known as the North Hill. It is an area of regenerating Caledonian pinewood that BCT has actively managed on behalf of the community for over 20 years. We have not been consulted in this proposal and therefore we have requested that the application is stopped to allow proper engagement to happen.
The pinewoods include a major part of Scotland’s most easterly surviving Native Caledonian Pinewood. Since 1999, the area of established woodland has increased significantly through natural regeneration. Birse Community Trust’s aim here is to conserve and improve this nationally important habitat. The Trust has also planted tens of thousands of native broad leaf trees of local genetic origin.
BCT ‘s management of the North Hill is delivered through a management agreement with Birse and Ballogie Estates who, with BCT, hold rights over the wider area of ground known as the Forest of Birse Commonty (c4000 ha). Birse Estate owns the solum of the Commonty, both Birse and Ballogie Estates own the sporting rights and Birse Community Trust holds and manages the extensive shared rights on behalf of the community. These are ancient heritor’s rights which were vested in BCT in 1998. A proposal such as the mast requires the consensus of all three Commonty partners.
We appreciate that our members, funders and wider stakeholders will be deeply concerned about the proposal. BCT considers the impact of the proposed mast on the habitat and landscape value of the North Hill to be hugely detrimental. The Trust does not support the proposal in its current form. We encourage members and interested parties to lodge their concerns with the Trust and to comment on the planning application before 23 March 2023.
We are actively seeking to work with our Commonty partners to identify a way forward which supports the protection of the native pinewoods and valuable natural heritage.