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A developer has responded this week to concerns over to its plans for a 325 home housing development.
Link Housing said it wanted to assure residents that it is doing everything necessary to prevent flooding and manage the peatland to avoid unnecessary disruption.
Flooding concerns were raised by residents living below a nearby recent housing development, who were complaining of gardens being ‘spongy’.
It is thought this is due to poor peat management.
A spokesperson for Link Housing said: ‘Link and the developer have been working with the council’s Flood Risk Officer and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to agree an acceptable drainage strategy.
‘There has been extensive dialogue with SEPA and the council as part of the planning process to understand and agree the principles around the peat management and as part of the planning approval and conditions (planning conditions 20 and 22) Link is required to produce a Peat Management Strategy which will be approved by SEPA. The strategy is as far as possible to avoid areas of deep peat and put in place mitigation measures.
‘There is already a contractor in place for the development and we will be in a position to confirm a site start following confirmation of funding which has currently been applied for from the Scottish Government.’
Peatland is an important factor in retaining water, especially in an area like Fort William which is one of the wettest places in the UK.
The sections of peatland in Upper Achintore can be as much as 14-feet deep and removal of this to be replaced by a hard and slick surface could cause water to flow underground and saturate the grounds of lower homes.
Peat is also an important store of carbon and – due to its abundance in the region – Highland Council and the Scottish Government have committed to peatland restoration.
A spokesperson for Lochaber Environmental Group said: ‘The Highland Council has declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency, so any activity that further increases our carbon emissions is completely contradictory to this declaration.
‘Because healthy peat plays a vital role in carbon storage, maintaining water quality, reducing flood risk and supporting biodiversity, it is essential that we preserve and maintain our healthy peatland, not destroy it.
‘It is much easier, and cheaper, to maintain healthy peatland than to restore damaged peatland. Once damaged, carbon emissions from 1 hectare (about the size of a football field) of peat range from 5 to 15 tonnes of CO2 per year, similar to the carbon emissions from two to seven cars per year.’