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Appeal Hearing in January

Review meeting date fixed

The date has been fixed for the first hearing of Allanwater Developments’ appeal against Stirling Council’s planners.   In June 2016 the Council rejected Allanwater’s plans to build on Holmehill.   That refusal of planning permission is being reviewed by the Council’s Local Review Body (LRB), which will hold its first meeting in Viewforth on Monday 23 January 2017 at 11.00am.

The agenda and papers to be considered by the LRB will be available on the Council’s website three days in advance of the meeting date.

The meeting is to be held in public.   The LRB will not be hearing oral representations at this meeting, but members of the public are welcome to attend and listen to the Local Review Body’s consideration of the review.

Allanwater’s proposals were alternative ideas: one for for an office block and the other for a luxury mansion.   To see more about this, visit our earlier blog post.   The appeals were lodged in September 2016.

The LRB will have access to all the representations that were made originally (and which no doubt contributed to the original rejection of the applications).   People who made representations were contacted by the Council to ask if they wished to submit further material.   The deadline for submissions was in October 2016.

You can see our submissions at these links: the house and the office block.

Image: The plan of the proposed office block, from the original application.

Wildlife Blog Dec 2016

Saturday December 17th 2016

This was a very dull day, the harsh morning light completely robbing most birds of any colour, and the branches of the trees standing out as skeletons against the clouds beyond.   It had also been raining during the night and whilst dry during my walk, it was never warm or sunny.   Perhaps not surprisingly, there was little about, the 18 species being the lowest monthly total in 2016, and what was there was pretty quiet.   The odd Robin briefly ‘warbled’ a soft sub-song, but even the Nuthatches were hardly calling.   At least two Great spotted Woodpeckers could be heard making their distinct ‘chipping’ call and I watched a female high up in the branches of a Lime feeding for a while, picking stuff from the twigs.

The winter thrushes have all left the hill – no Redwings to be seen this time, nor Fieldfares and only a solitary Blackbird and Mistle thrush.   My hope that some of the Waxwings that have been seen in Dunblane this past three weeks might make it up on to the hill went unfulfilled.   Indeed the Waxwings have largely, but not totally left the area, though for a week or so it was possibe to see a flock of well over 200 of these spectacular Winter visitors from Scandinavia feeding on the Rowan berries on the edge of Tesco’s car park!   Otherwise, even the birds I did see were in very small numbers and for a change I didn’t even see any of our resident Roe deer.

A Review of 2016

Looking back over this year’s surveys, in the ten standard one hour visits I did in 2016, we had a total of 33 different species recorded as using the hill, compared to 37 (from 11 visits) last year.   This only includes birds seen during the regular monthly morning count, when I follow the same route each time, and not others seen at other times of the day or year (like Tawny Owl or Peregrine).   And neither does this include species flying over, such as gulls, geese, swans, swallows, sky larks, oystercatchers, etc. but not making use of the site itself.

Of the 33 species in 2016, twelve were always present (Blackbird, Blue tit, Carrion crow, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Great tit, Jackdaw, Magpie, Robin, Stock dove, Wood pigeon and Wren), a couple more 9 times out of ten (Nuthatch and Rook), whilst others were there only during Summer (Chiffchaff, Blackcap), or Winter (Redwing) or seen only once (Bullfinch, Fieldfare, Red kite, Sparrowhawk and Treecreeper this year).   The number of species seen varied from 24 (November) down to 18 (December), with individual species varying from over 80 (Rooks) and 60 (Jackdaws) down to single birds, such as Sparrowhawk.

Other than birds, the resident Roe deer were nearly always seen, numbers usually 3, but as high as 5, with Grey squirrels and Rabbits even more common.   Signs (or in the case of the fox smells) of moles and a fox were also recorded.   Although I saw the odd butterfly, as the counts are undertaken in the early morning, this is totally the wrong time for recording these species.   And the same would be true for nocturnal species, such as Bats.

Click here to see the bird report for December 2016.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   “Robin” © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Our Meetings

We publish the agendas and minutes of our meetings on our website: click here to see the latest documents.

Click here to see the dates of forthcoming meetings.

Wildlife Blog Nov 2016

Saturday November 26th 2016

After the sharp frosts and cold of the last two weeks, I was hoping for a clear bright morning and possibly a flock of Waxwings up on the hill today, as small flocks of this impressive Winter visitor from Scandinavia and Russia have been seen all round Dunblane, Doune, Stirling and elsewhere recently in what is clearly another ‘invasion’ year for these attractive berry-eating birds.   But it turned out to be much warmer (relatively!) than I thought it would be, though still with a light frost on the ground coating the masses of golden-brown beech and sycamore leaves that carpeted the pathways.   The cloud gradually dispersed and with no wind it was easy to hear and see what was around.

Winter visitors were certainly there in numbers, with some 50 or so Redwings the pick of several thrush species – Mistle thrush (3), Song thrushes (3), Fieldfares (2) and Blackbirds (4) also represented.   The majority were still feeding on the remaining berries on the yew trees and the holly bushes, providing a faint background noise of high-pitched calls as I wandered round.   Each Autumn, the Rooks and Jackdaws return to their colony sites, some even ‘repairing’ the old nests, and there were good numbers of both, with some 80 of the former and 60 of the latter, along with 5 Carrion crows and 5 Magpies.   As the sun came out, a Red Kite drifted over the hill heading east, no doubt one originating from the release site over at Argaty, Stock Doves were busy chasing each other through the Lime trees and a Great-spotted woodpecker briefly called.

Of the smaller birds, there was a good variety again; indeed 24 species on the hill in an hour is a good Winter total (and not counting such high-flying species as gulls or geese passing overhead).   Nuthatches were calling loudly, and there were small numbers of various finches and tit species, though I couldn’t find any Siskins or Bullfinches, and Treecreeper was another ‘missing’ species this time.

I disturbed at least 5 Roe deer from Braeport meadow where they were lying up amidst the brambles, and came across another 3 further up the hill below the main rookery.

And Waxwings? – well, no, but then I walked in to town afterwards and there was a flock of 30 plus in the trees next to Perth road opposite the police station, heading north….so they may well have made their way to the hill later today!

Click here to see the bird report for November 2016.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Randen Pederson, “Waxwing”.   Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Spooks Are Back

Spooks will haunt Spooky Fun

Once again we’re repeating our annual Spooky Fun event.   This year it’s on Sunday 30th October from 3.30 to 5.30, in the Braeport Centre as usual.   Admission is £3 each or £10 for a family.   There will be games, refreshments, and story reading.   Come in costume with your camera for selfies in the photo booth.   The event culminates in the Spooky Walk up onto Holmehill as the night falls … Come if you dare!

If you would like to know more (or if you’d like to help with the organisation!) ring Alison on 07759 924 023.

Photograph: Spooky Fun 2015 © Caroline Crawford

Wildlife Blog Oct 2016

Saturday October 8th 2016

Another dry and warm morning, if not quite the clear blue skies and sunshine that has been the case recently.   Being Autumn, things are very much on the move and I was greeted by flocks of Pinkfeet geese high overhead, having recently arrived from Iceland – in fact, the drive up the A9 towards Perth each morning this week has been enlivened by the sight (and sound) of thousands and thousands of Pinkfeet flighting out from their overnight roost sites to feed on the fields in the Earn and Allan valleys.

Back on the hill, other newly arrived winter migrants were also very much in evidence, with a couple of Skylarks flying over, and a record count of over 50 Song Thrushes being remarkable.   These will not be our local birds but probably very recent arrivals from Scandinavia.   The birds on the hill were all on the yew trees, rapidly stripping the branches of the berries.   They were joined by a few Blackbirds and a small group of Redwings, but it was mainly Song Thrushes, with yet more being seen flying overhead all morning.   They regularly migrate at night, their high-pitched calls being a feature of this time of year.

Whilst the Song Thrushes were definitely the star of the morning, a group of Jackdaws and Magpies flying round the top of one of the Lime trees, calling loudly and ‘bombing’ the tree top, alerted me to the presence of something that was concerning them – eventually a male Sparrowhawk flew out, carrying a small bird in its talons and headed for cover away from the scolding attention of these and other birds.   Jackdaws were actually to be seen in good numbers, over 40, and the rookery was being occupied by some 60 Rooks, so there was a lot of noise and activity.   A corvid I thought I might have seen was Jay, many of which can be seen locally at present flying over carrying acorns, but not on the hill today.

I disturbed a couple of female Roe deer on the site of the old house, and another 3 down in the Braeport Meadow, while Grey Squirrels were very much in evidence throughout.   The resident Nuthatches were calling loudly and a couple of Great spotted woodpeckers added to the soundscape.  A few Robins were singing in snatches, but otherwise no real song.   At night the Tawny Owls are certainly very vocal this time of year, as they set up their winter territories and the occasional hedgehog can still be seen in the evenings.

Click here to see the bird report for October 2016.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   “Song thrush” by Taco Meeuwsen from Hellevoetsluis, The Netherlands.   Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Allanwater Appeals

Can’t take the hint

Allanwater Developments have lodged appeals against Stirling Council’s refusal of planning permission for their two proposals for the old house site.   These proposals were alternative ideas: one for for an office block and the other for a luxury mansion.   Permission was refused in June: to see more about this, visit our earlier blog post.   The appeals were lodged in September.

The appeal will be heard by the Council’s Local Review Body (LRB). The LRB consists of three Council Members who cannot be representatives for the ward where the proposed development is located.

The LRB will have access to all the representations that were made originally (and which no doubt contributed to the original rejection of the applications). People who made representations should all have been contacted by the Council to ask if they wish to submit further material.   The deadline for submissions is 7th October.

We at Holmehill Community Buyout have been considering what would be the best strategy.   It seems likely that the LRB will already have a mass of material arguing against the proposed developments, and that another surge of individual views will not add much.   Instead, we have prepared a summary statement for each application, and we are inviting people who originally submitted representations, and have been asked by the Council if they want to submit new material, to simply let the Council know that they support our summary statements.   You can see these at these links: house and office block.

Image: A bird of ill omen.

Wildlife Blog Jul 2016

Saturday July 16th 2016

Cool and breezy this morning, so hard to hear calls in amongst the noise of the leaves being blown on the trees.   Being July, many birds are undergoing their annual feather moult anyhow and are hiding out of sight, and there isn’t that much song to be heard.   And what song there was tended to be very short snatches or brief calls only.   That said, Wrens appeared to be the most vocal, even if only in short bursts, and I was able to locate a late singing Blackcap, and indeed a young one as well, and a similar solitary singing Chiffchaff, so Summer migrants haven’t yet left us, even if it felt more like Autumn.   Many of our Cuckoos meanwhile will have already left the UK and begun heading south across southern Europe, not that that is a species I have yet recorded on the hill.   Other than the Blackcap, there were young Blue tits, Great tits and Robins to be seen.

The good thing about this time of year is that with a bit of careful looking, you can have a second breakfast of wild raspberries!   A few stems are to be found amongst the ever growing sweeps of Rosebay Willowherb.   Since all the Brambles were cut down two years ago, Willowherb seems to have expanded and now dominates a large part of the open areas on the top of the hill and across parts of Braeport meadow.   It’s not yet in full flower, but in a week or two, the hill will turn purple, joining the Foxgloves already in bloom.

Rabbits seem to be up in number, but I didn’t see a single Grey Squirrel this time.   A solitary Roe deer was hiding in the Brambles in the Braeport meadow.

Click here to see the bird report for July 2016.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Ron Knight: A male Eurasian Blackcap.   Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Wildlife Blog Jun 2016

Sunday June 26th 2016

A morning with absolutely no wind, so bird calls were easy to hear but that didn’t actually make seeing them any much easier, as the trees are in full leaf.   Add to this the fact that most species are no longer singing, so it was a case of trying to locate the ‘owners’ of brief contact calls and snatches of song.   The one exception was a large and very vocal group of Jackdaws that were calling from the top of one of the large Maple trees.   There must have been 30-40 and they appeared to be concentrating their activity and noise to the upper branches, constantly landing and then taking off, circling and landing again.   Despite watching for a while, I couldn’t make much out, but I suspect that there may have been a Tawny Owl somewhere in the tree which they were scolding.   However, as I could see a number of young birds, it might have just been an excited response of colony members to the first somewhat shaky flights of recently fledged young Jackdaws.   Either way the main sound this morning was that of excited Jackdaws, whereas since last month all the Rooks have left their colony site.

Other than the Jackdaws then, the Stock Doves were still much in evidence calling from the Lime trees and there were a number of recently fledged young of various other species – Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blue and Great tits.   A shaft of sunlight lit up the bark of one of the Spruce trees as I was watching to reveal a Treecreeper making its way up the trunk, and shortly after a young one and another adult appeared.   A Great spotted Woodpecker flew over calling and the resident Nuthatches also briefly called.   Summer migrants were in short supply with only a short snatch of song from a Chiffchaff.   By comparison there were lots of rabbits, especially in the cleared area on the top of the hill which is now covered in white clover, buttercups and the occasional purple (or white) spikes of foxgloves and smaller blues of Germander speedwell and bugle.   The Braeport meadow area has similar swathes of buttercups, as well as the odd Yellow meadow vetchling.   A single Roe buck was hidden in among the brambles and wandered off slowly, but barking loudly to warn others of my appearance.

Click here to see the bird report for June 2016.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia. John Haslam, Dornoch, “Jackdaw – up close and personal”

Forth Housing Start Work

Specialised housing

Forth Housing have announced a start date for their building on the former Scottish Woodlands site on the corner of Bogside and Perth Road.   This land is not part of the Holmehill area currently owned by Allanwater Developments, and is outside the area we (Holmehill Community Buyout) are currently trying to preserve.

The new building will provide eight affordable rented homes. This will provide adapted accommodation for current or former Dunblane residents who have housing needs due to medical or mobility difficulties. Forth Housing say that the work should start on 27th June, and is scheduled to be complete in February 2017.

Image: Architect’s drawings for the new housing.