Forestry Commission Scotland has launched a fresh appeal for views on what to do with a 500-acre farm at the centre of a furore over controversial tree-planting plans.
The caretaker of Scotland’s national forest sparked outrage in the agri-rural community in 2012 when it announced plans to plant trees across Corniehaugh Farm, near Rothiemay.
The 500-acre farm, which previously housed a 200-cow herd and a contracting business, was purchased by FCS in 2011 for £1.4million.
The commission has since gone back to the drawing board, ditching its original plans, ahead of launching a formal consultation later this year.
“We are currently gathering views from the local community and the farming sector on what integrated land use options they would like to see at Corniehaugh. We are open to all ideas and alternative plans for the site and we have no set ideas or proposals at this stage,” an FCS spokesman told the Press and Journal.
“The views we gather will be taken into account as plans evolve and once we have a formal proposal, we will again consult the local community.”
The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association said Corniehaugh Farm had the potential to make a “significant contribution” to livestock production in the north-east and provide a living for a farming family.
Spokesman Angus McCall said: “The 500-acre farm is probably too big for a starter farm, but it would be an ideal stepping stone for a tenant looking to upsize or for one whose lease is coming to an end.
“Moreover, with cattle numbers in decline and rented land scarce, this is a rare chance for the government to practice what it has been preaching and provide an opportunity for a young family to progress up the farming ladder.”
NFU Scotland said the concerns expressed over the Corniehaugh situation over the past two years showed how sensitive an issue balancing food production and forestry is for farmers.
A spokesman for the union said: “If the agricultural community is to have confidence in future forestry development, then the views we expressed in 2012 still stand.
“We would want to see the Forestry Commission pull back from purchase and planting of productive farmland and would encourage the local agricultural community to take the opportunity to respond to the Forestry Commission’s current request for suggestions on suitable land use at Corniehaugh. These are likely to focus on the farm’s potential to contribute to the Scottish livestock sector.”