Conservationists hope that Tesco’s abandonment of plans for a new superstore in Aviemore will mean the site – which was the home of an endangered species of damselfly – can be turned into a nature reserve.
Yesterday, the supermarket giant announced that a downturn in the company’s business meant it was cancelling plans to build 49 new stores across the UK, including those planned for Aviemore and Fort William.
Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said he was determined that the company would work closely with Highland Council and Cairngorms National Park Authority to “find the right solutions for each community”.
And Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group convener Gus Jones said he believed the right solution would be a nature reserve.
He said: “I think the decision by Tesco creates an opportunity for something positive to be done there.
“There is quite a lot of wildlife that would benefit from this oasis in the heart of Aviemore.”
The group protested against the destruction of the habitat for the northern damselfly at Myrtlefield during the planning process.
Consent was granted for the development, but it included a condition that a new home should be found for the insects that were breeding in a lochan on the site.
The nymphs were moved to a new location last summer, but the conservation group is now hoping that some were left behind.
Mr Jones said: “With luck, some of these rare damselflies may have been missed when nymphs were translocated to a Badenoch loch last year.
“We can also hope that some of these dazzling insects may naturally recolonise this lochan in which they have been known to breed since before 1914.
“Newts that would have had their habitat destroyed, along with red squirrels that live in trees that would have been felled, should also have a brighter future at this site, which could become a local nature reserve buzzing with life.”
Mr Jones said a rare bee, called the Tormentil mining bee, had also been seen on the site.
The national park authority’s director of planning and rural development Murray Ferguson said: “We are extremely disappointed that Tesco will not be proceeding with the new Aviemore store.
“This site, which lies in the very centre of the community, has live planning permission for a retail store and we would be keen to work with any interested party to see that delivered.”
The failed Tesco development on the Blar Mhor at Fort William also faced conservation issues during the planning stage, with concerns being raised about 12 rare marsh orchids growing on the site.
These were also relocated to enable the project to go ahead.