Concerns voiced over proposed 125-hectare woodland near Bonchester Bridge

Belling Hill, midway between Bonchester Bridge and Camptown.
Belling Hill, midway between Bonchester Bridge and Camptown.

A developer is drawing up plans to establish a major commercial woodland midway between Camptown and Bonchester Bridge.

The as-yet-unidentified developer wants to plant trees on 125 hectares of land at Belling Hill.

Speaking at Southdean Community Council’s March meeting last week, forestry consultant Mark Hamilton, drafted in by Savills to create a woodland plan for the area on behalf of its client, said that an application would be submitted to the Forestry Commission this month.

He told members: “The prime objective is to create a productive woodland for economic reasons.

“The individual has bought 154 hectares of land at Belling Hill, and the proposals involve planting 125 hectares of that called Belion Wood.

“The owner is keen to press on, and we’re likely to submit the application to the Forestry Commission in April.

“If that is successful, we would be looking to plant around this time next year.”

He said that, driven by its climate change agenda, the Scottish Government wants to increase woodland cover from 17% to 25%.

“Forestry gets most of its money from the climate change banner,” he added.

Scottish Borders Council also has a target of 25% woodland, 10% more than at present.

However, members of Southdean Community Council said that residents had serious concerns about the scheme, including road haulage and the impact on the landscape, within a Scottish Natural Heritage designated special landscape area.

David Skinner said: “We have concerns about lorry movements because many of the roads in this vicinity are single track with no passing places.”

Mr Hamilton said that harvesting, to start around 35 years from now, would be done in stages. He said there would be an estimated 325 lorry movements every five years and that passing places would be looked at nearer the time.

However, Mr Skinner said: “I’m sure 35 years ago, when permission was given for other woodlands, they said the same thing yet I was speaking to a lady the other day who met a timber lorry at Chesters Brae and had to reverse nearly half a mile because there was no plassing place, and the lorry could not reverse. She was very upset.”

Community council chairman Philip Kerr said: “This would be yet another forest among a whole raft of forests.

“The effect would be cumulative.”

He added that the site sits among the largest area of heath in the Teviot and Liddesdale special landscape area, adding: “I don’t think they should be covering it with 80% woodland.”

Members agreed to discuss the application again when it is submitted to decide the best way forward.