COMMUNITY protestors trying to halt tree planting and stop the John Buchan Way becoming a forestry track are appealing for £35,000 to pay legal fees.

The Stobo Residents Action Group (StoboRAG), with members from across Peeblesshire, hopes to crowd-fund a judicial review in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The review would challenge the decision by Scottish Forestry to approve a 10 square kilometre coniferous forest to be planted by the Stobo Estate, in and around the Upper Tweeddale National Scenic Area (NSA).

A StoboRAG spokesperson said: “The group has already been pledged some initial funds and if we can crowd-fund £35,000 to cover legal fees, we will argue that Scottish Forestry failed to follow the required protocols, when assessing the application for this forestry project, wrongly determining that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not required.”

A Scottish Forestry spokesperson said: “This woodland proposal was agreed last year after due diligence was carried out by the applicant, which involved consultation with local stakeholders.

“Scottish Forestry also carried out its own 28-day public consultation period and worked with the applicant to make further changes, including more native broadleaves and a reduction of the size of conifer species within the NSA.”

The StoboRAG spokesperson said it seemed “disjointed” that the scenic path was being “downgraded to a forestry road” while the Destination Tweed long-distance footpath, to which it connects, received significant public funding.

They also claimed that Scottish Forestry had “ignored the recommendations of its own independent landscape advisors”.

They added that the “alleged climate benefits” had been overstated.

“A commercial plantation in this NSA, with its associated infrastructure requirements, which will be felled in 30 years, will simply destroy large areas of semi-natural habitats, already storing carbon, with questionable climate benefits,” said the spokesperson.

But The Scottish Forestry spokesperson maintained that the environmental impacts of the project had been considered in detail.

They said: “With significant projects such as this one, detailed consideration of the potential for any significant environmental impacts, in line with the Forestry Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations Scotland 2017, are undertaken.

“A number of environmental factors were thoroughly examined including the landscape, national and local scenic area designations, public access, private water supplies, biodiversity, including black grouse, eagles, ospreys and groundwater terrestrial ecosystems.  

“Issues such as deep peat, timber transport and heritage interests, including scheduled ancient monuments, and cumulative impact, were also all carefully considered and we reached the conclusion that no significant impacts were likely.”

The spokesperson added: “Conifers are vital to tackling climate change, the latest scientific research has found that they soak up CO2 at a faster rate than broadleaves – it is only much later, usually 100 years, that a broadleaf tree would catch up.

“The timber obtained from domestic forestry does not require to be imported to Scotland, with the associated environmental issues, and further locks up that carbon for the lifetime of the product.”

The Crowdfunder is at: