Impact on trees at iconic Highland landmark site is 'acceptable', say forestry officers as plans for 'must-see' attraction take a step forward
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Forestry officers have withdrawn their objections to the transformation of Inverness Castle into a major tourist attraction after updated tree protection plans were submitted.
Statutory applications have been lodged with Highland Council revealing the designs and landscaping proposals to create a "must-see" attraction to celebrate the spirit of the Highlands.
But the council’s forestry team lodged an objection pending further information, saying there was no protection plan showing how trees would be safeguarded from construction.
The site has a visually-prominent western embankment planted with broadleaf and conifer species of all ages and lies within the riverside conservation area, which affords trees protection.
Following an updated arboricultural impact assessment, which highlights trees to be removed plus the planting of 24 new trees, the forestry team now says it has no objection to the application and recommended several conditions.
The assessment identifies 35 trees to be removed out of 92 which were surveyed.
Of these, 17 of these are in poor condition and so should be removed even if development does not proceed, while 18 are recommended for removal in the interest of good arboricultural management.
Five trees are proposed for removal as they are within the footprint of the proposed development, while three tree groups and part of a fourth group are recommended for removal to facilitate development.
A statement by the forestry team says: "Providing the tree protection measures are adequate, the direct impact on trees on site is acceptable.
"It should be noted that the proposals now include for the retention and safeguarding of the visually significant Corsican pine which is most welcome.
"It is however proposed to be crown lifted to 56m above ground level on the uphill side. This seems excessive and is not supported."
The proposals include a footpath from the southern end of the castle grounds and around the western side of the castle which passes through the root protection area of five high or moderate quality trees which are proposed for retention.
The forestry team states this could be accepted if suitable means of safeguarding the trees is confirmed in the tree protection plan.
The transformation of Inverness Castle is supported by a £15 million Scottish Government and £3 million UK government investment through the city-region deal.