The plan for a resort, plus houses and golf lodges, already has outline planning permission from East Lothian Council as an “enabling development” to fund a restoration of the historic landscape of Archerfield House and its grounds.
The Herald reported earlier this week that the development, involving two championship courses, could create 350 jobs.
People have been allowed to walk on the Archerfield estate for decades, but there has been no vehicle access and its seclusion has meant that wildlife has flourished, with the woods being home to deer, badgers, buzzards, fulmars, otters and butterflies.
Some of the sycamores on the edge of the site are 300 years old, and ramblers say there will be no way to protect them when full planning permission is granted.
Bill Nimmo, a local historian, said: “I find it quite ironic that they are destroying the landscape in order to preserve some parts of it.
“One of the most beautiful areas in the forest is the Eldbotle ridge, which has a fantastic view of the special site of scientific interest there, the bays, the Firth of Forth and out to the island of Fidra.
“Already they have taken down the old Scots pines, on top of that which were blown into interesting shapes by the wind, and cut a swath through a patch of beautiful sycamores on the north side, although they have left a patch of quite uninteresting plantation trees untouched.”
Mr Nimmo said the Forestry Commission should not have granted a licence to allow “sight line” felling of two-metre strips which, he said, had been infringed, with the fellers creating up to 10-metre wide swaths.
“The Forestry Commission usually grants licences for trees that are going to be replanted.
That is not what this is. Even if the golf course did not go ahead, a lot of trees have already been lost.”
Bill Anderson, 57, who grew up on the estate and still lives nearby, said locals walking on a recently built course were chased away and another one was not needed or wanted in the area.
“There must be close on 40 golf courses within a short drive of where I live. This is the last piece of unspoiled country woodland within 40 miles of Edinburgh. A golf course uses pesticide, it is tended, it is not countryside. It is a completely different environment.”
Bill Allen, an Edinburghbased walker, said: “I used to walk my dog out there a lot, down through the wood and across the fields on to the dunes. It was a diverse environment. This is really disappointing. Golf courses are squeaky clean, they use a lot of water and there is not much wildlife roaming about.”
However, Alan Leitch, of Scottish Natural Heritage, said:
“Archerfield is not a particularly interesting wood, although it does have some very old sycamores. It has been left to itself for a long time.”
He also pointed out that walkers would have a right to roam over the new golf course, although SNH has insisted on access to the beach being blocked off to prevent an inf lux of people driving into the SSSI on the new roads.
Fraser Niven, chief executive of Hamilton Kinneil, also defended the project. He said the existing development by Caledonian Heritable was funding the restoration of Archerfield House and the aim of the golf course development was to “restore the historic landscape and have a positive effect on the local economy”.
The Scottish Herald
February 4th 2005