Inverness Courier article expressing our concern about the number of trees being felled along the back road up to Westercraigs, and our desire to build a positive working relationship with Robertson Homes.
Today was a day that Emma, Lynne, Debbie and I thought would never come. But it has, and we're very excited about the potential of what happens next.
So why all the fuss?
In two words. Robertson Homes. After a flurry of emails over the last month or so, the four of us took time off work to meet Tim Metcalfe, Robertson's new North Regional Director. We met at duck pond and took Tim for a 2 hour 'walk in the woods'. To say he was surprised by what he found would be an understatement. Thankfully, unlike Bill Bryson's own adventures in the woods, he didn't come across any bears!
"Wow, this place is amazing, what a view, I just never knew this was up here and I expect most of Robertson's staff don't either!".
What we discussed
Tim's email following the meeting is provided below. But in summary:
To help him get a better appreciation of the wider complexities, Tim is currently meeting various parties including: ourselves, planning dept, transport agencies and local councilors - before presenting a proposal to the Robertson Group Board in late July.
At this point Robertson's will be in a better position to agree a way forward with ourselves, planning department and the local community.
If you have any ideas about what you'd like to see happen around the woodland comment below or via the Contact Us form.
It was good to meet you all today and really enjoyable being able to get a proper tour of the open space around our development and see some of the great work you and others have been doing. The setting for our development is truly unique and special and I want Robertson Homes to play its part in keeping it that way or enhancing where needed.
The specific items we discussed were:
I will look into each of the above to see if we can help in some way.
I would suggest that our main focus would be on improvement to areas that are widely accessible eg duck pond, so that maximise benefit for the community is achieved.
We also discussed the potential lease of the woodland areas. I will speak to our solicitors to see what our options may be and specifically to understand whether some form of management agreement might be a better route.
I will also give some thought about how we can work better together going forward to our mutual benefit. Please feel free to pitch any ideas you have.
Be in touch again soon
Saturday morning brought an unexpected ray of sunshine, and I'm not just talking about the yellow ball in the sky that made an appearance after a week of very wet weather!
It came in the form of a big yellow fork-lift truck rumbling past the bottom of my garden heading up the lane immediately opposite the old mental hospital. Thirty minutes later it came back with a load of old HERA fencing panels - many with bits of gorse and grass hanging off. I was so surprised I ran indoors to get my phone to take some photos.
So why all the fuss? About 3 weeks ago I dropped into the Robertson offices at Fairways to see if I could find out who to talk to about running some small woodland partnership projects. Following a year of getting the administrative side of things in better shape, the directors are keen to get stuck in and make a difference where it matters - in the woods.
I met Jim Smith, who was interested to hear what I had to say and we agreed that a closer partnership between the woodland group, residents and Robertson's would be mutually beneficial. We exchanged details and agreed to keep in contact. Two week's later, following some email exchanges with Margaret Davidson (Leader of Highland Council), I was invited to a site walk-around with Brian McBride to discuss issues such as abandoned fencing, broken lamp posts, concrete blocks, abandoned cones, builders waste and the ruined (burned-out) cottage. Unsightly and unsafe for people and nature.
It was a very amicable walk-around with Brian showing genuine concern and a willingness to take action. I also got an insight into their own constraints around tight man power and cost management. Things I understand all too well!
Following our Tuesday meeting I received an email (and photos) outlining the main points discussed. I must admit I thought it would be sometime (if at all) that anything would happen. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see a big yellow fork-lift truck and a couple of chaps coming past my house on Saturday morning!
Although not technically part of the Dunain Community Woods remit and plans, I hope local residents take pride in the clean-up work being undertaken on their behalf. There's a lot still to do, but it's a great start. Thank you Jim and Brian.
I hope these early gestures will turn into a genuine partnership with Robertson's, resulting in ongoing projects the entire community can get involved in, with all parties mutually benefiting.
Stay tuned for clean-up part 2, and progress with Jade O'Hara - Robertson's Community Engagement Officer.