£1.5M bird of prey centre is scrapped

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PLANS for one of Europe’s largest aviary projects at a disused quarry near Ancrum have been scrapped, writes Kenny Paterson.

Eagles Gardens was due to open in the summer in a £1.5million scheme, but problems with funding meant director Dr Mike Eccles was forced to write to Scottish Borders Council this week and withdraw the planning application.

In an email sent on Saturday to SBC’s planning department, Dr Eccles said: “I am writing to inform you that the project has been abandoned due to lack of sufficient funding. I would therefore ask you to withdraw our planning application with immediate effect.”

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

The application lodged in 2008 for the bird of prey centre also included staff accommodation, cafe, shop, interactive zoo and parking for almost 200 vehicles.

When the proposals were unveiled by conservationists Dr 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 Scottish Rural Development Programme had awarded Eagle Gardens a £637,000 grant.

Dr Eccles confirmed in May that the centre would not open in 2011 due to “severe difficulties” in raising necessary funds, with Ms Bathgate believed to have returned to her native Austria last month to run a bird of prey conservation centre.