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Woodland guardians fight for their 'special place'

Campaigner Dr Catriona Mackay
Dr Catriona Mackay successfully led a campaign against developers in 2022

Protesters in Peebles have vowed to fight against fresh attempts to flatten parts of a historic town-centre woodland.

A successful campaign, two years ago, prevented 50 mature trees being felled to make way for a block of flats at Kingsmeadows estate.

Granton Homes Ltd has now submitted fresh applications to amend conditions relating to previous outline permission.

Campaigner Dr Catriona Mackay said: "More than 500 local people opposed their plans - that opposition isn't going away."

Kingsmeadows woodland
Many of the trees in Kingsmeadows woodland date back to when the house was built in the late 1700s

Kingsmeadows woodland surrounds a 230-year-old manor house on the banks of the River Tweed.

Much of the seven-hectares (17 acres) in central Peebles was planted with trees about the same time as the B-listed property was built by Sir John Hay in 1795.

While the house has been used for various purposes, including offices and a maternity hospital, the woodland has remained relatively untouched.

Dr Mackay, who grew up near Kingsmeadows, added: "This is an amazing 200-year-old biodiverse woodland that is easily accessible for everyone in Peebles.

"Local people come here for peace, to connect with nature, and to walk their dogs - and it's right on their doorstep.

"It is a special place that deserves our protection."

Kingsmeadows House
Kingsmeadows House was built on the banks of the River Tweed

Granton Homes Ltd bought Kingsmeadows House and estate from Standard Life in 2014 and converted the house into apartments.

Permission in principle was also granted for building a block of flats on an area of land behind the manor house.

The full application which followed was for a larger development requiring a strip of about 50 mature trees to be felled.

Dr Michael Marshall at Kingsmeadows woodland
Dr Michael Marshall has been fighting to protect the woodland since moving to the estate eight years ago

Dr Michael Marshall, who has been fighting to protect the woodland since moving to Kingsmeadows eight years ago, said: "This woodland has been left for 200 years to develop its own eco-system.

"There are so many protected species here like bats, otters and red squirrels - it is a place that needs our protection.

"Granton were originally going to build in an area free from mature trees but their plans changed and that was when we began our campaign

"Everyone in Peebles seems to be supportive of our fight."

Political support

The latest campaign to oppose recent applications from Granton Homes Ltd to remove or modify conditions has won support from local politicians.

Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, along with the David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, have both submitted objections.

Mr Mundell said: "I urge Scottish Borders Council to stand by the clear intentions of the conditions originally agreed in respect of this proposed development, both in terms of the period of time given to satisfy them and the protection they are intended to offer the woodlands within the Kingsmeadows estate."

Granton Homes Ltd has been approached for comment.

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