£1.5M plan for 35-acre aviary on hold

Andrea Bathgate of Eagle Gardens with Bodo, a european eagle owl at ancrum quarry the proposed site of a a bird of prey conservation and visitirs centre.
Andrea Bathgate of Eagle Gardens with Bodo, a european eagle owl at ancrum quarry the proposed site of a a bird of prey conservation and visitirs centre.
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AMBITIOUS plans to create one of Europe’s largest aviaries at a disused quarry near Ancrum have been put on hold after the company behind the £1.5million project failed to secure adequate funding, writes Kenny Paterson.

Eagle Gardens was due to open this summer on a 35-acre site in the former 19th century sandstone quarry.

However, a planning application lodged by the developers in 2008 for the birds of prey centre has yet to be considered by Scottish Borders Council.

When the proposals were unveiled in 2009 by conservationists Dr Mike Eccles and Andrea Bathgate, they anticipated a free flight aviary with the 50ft-high sandstone quarry providing a backdrop of ledges and hollows for at least 200 birds of prey.

Species mentioned by the developers included pigmy falcons, red kites, golden eagles, condors and eagle owls as well as 30 African vultures.

The project was also intended to feature an interactive zoo, a hatchery, webcams, staff quarters, a shop and café as well as parking for almost 200 vehicles.

The Scottish Rural Development Programme awarded Eagle Gardens a £637,000 grant.

But commercial director Dr Eccles has admitted the only definite thing he can say is that the birds of prey centre will not open this year.

He said: “We have had and continue to have severe difficulties in raising the necessary funds in the present economic and banking climate.

“We are reviewing our plans and intend to issue a statement on the project within the next month or so.”

Selkirk Sheriff Court was told last month that Ms Bathgate, 39, a director, intended moving back to her native Austria to become operations manager of a bird of prey conservation centre in August.

The statement came after the conservationist admitted driving while more than four times the legal alcohol limit for which she was banned from the road for three years and fined £750.