Historic woodland puts brakes on Pentlands zipline and mountain bike trail

CONSERVATIONISTS want to ground plans for a zipline in the Pentlands because of its impact on historic woodland.

Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 6:43 pm
The mountain bike trail is the centrepiece of leisure plans

The Evening News reported in February how businessmen want to turn land at Lothianburn Golf Course into a mountain bike trail and leisure complex.But now a petition by the Friends of Swanston for city planners to throw out the project has attracted more than 1,000 signatures.Local resident and Swanston Village Conservation Association Chair, Steve Appolinari, said: “This is a fragile conservation area.“It would be totally inappropriate to build a campsite so close to a quiet village and run zip wires and mountain bike trails through protected woodland.“We strongly believe that the campsite and other developments would irreversibly damage wildlife habitats in this part of the Pentland Hills and destroy the unique character of Swanston village.”Mr Appolinari said the proposed campsite would create more noise, rubbish, and boozing in the area, while the shops and restaurants would add to congestion on the City Bypass.“People come to this unique part of the Pentlands for the beautiful scenery, wildlife, and tranquillity, all of which would be irreparably damaged as a result of the proposed developments,” he added.“If the campsite, retail, and recreation facilities are rubber-stamped, it would set a dangerous precedent and send out a clear message to every developer in Scotland that Edinburgh’s greenbelt and outstanding conservation areas are up for sale.”Blueprints for the 6.5-mile track, cafe and sleeping accommodation at the former Lothianburn Golf Course are the second major leisure plans to be unveiled for the Pentlands.The project is separate to plans for a 50mph zipline and alpine rollercoaster at Hillend ski centre which got £13.8 million of funding from Midlothian Council earlier this month.Other outdoor activities outlined for Lothianburn include a high ropes course, zipline and an alpine roller luge.Proposals also comprise a café, changing facilities, shops, office space and accommodation ‘pods’.Alastair McClung, of Swanston Farms, has teamed up with Stuart Wright, of Advie Properties and formerly responsible for Dobbies’ development activities, on the project.The pair, both keen mountain bikers themselves, have set-up new firm Hillend Leisure Ltd to deliver the scheme.Sitting inside both the city boundary and the Pentland Hills Regional Park, the site is seen as ideal to attract the Lothians estimated 260,000 cyclists.

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Stuart Wright from Hillend Leisure Ltd, said: "We have been custodians of the Swanston area for many decades and have always been passionate about creating a responsible balance between conservation and access for the wider public in the pursuit of outdoor activity. Our proposals for the Pentlands Trail Centre development have been carefully crafted with respect for the environment and were presented at an open public consultation on Tuesday 5 March 2019 when feedback and comments were invited. This is the first stage in the process of a forthcoming application for planning permission in principle."This exercise has been extremely beneficial and we are very grateful for all of the feedback we received from all parties. The vast majority of the comments have been very positive and extremely supportive, recognizing the huge benefits of creating opportunity for the public to get involved in physical activity. However, we are taking careful note of any issues raised, in particular those comments regarding the impact on Swanston Village, the A702, the City Bypass and the site’s wildlife and woodland conservation.

“All of the issues highlighted will contribute to our refined masterplan for the site as we move forward to the next stage of the planning process.”