Home   News   Article

Caithness broch plans won't be stymied by hen harrier presence

By Iain Grant

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
A digital reconstruction of an Iron Age Broch produced by architectural illustrator Bob Marshall.
A digital reconstruction of an Iron Age Broch produced by architectural illustrator Bob Marshall.

Those behind plans to build the first full-sized broch in two millennia are confident their plans will not be stymied by the suspected presence of raptors near their preferred site in Caithness.

They are still aiming to begin construction of a replica of what was a feature of Iron Age Scotland within two years. Caithness Broch Project (CBP) has earmarked a favoured location and is in the process of carrying out a series of detailed studies to satisfy planners.

The potential issue with birds of prey was flagged up last month during an ecological survey.

Iain Maclean, who founded the charity with Kenneth McElroy, said: “The ecologist thought they heard the call of a merlin.

“To investigate this further, we were required to employ a qualified and licensed raptor specialist to survey the site.

“After carrying out a walkover survey there was a possible sighting of a hen harrier in hunting flight.

“Hen harriers are a red listed endangered species, meaning they fall under a category that is afforded special protection, making it difficult to develop anywhere near where they may or may not be nesting.

“No nests were spotted on site but the protection of this bird is so tight that the bird doesn’t have to be nesting on site, it could be nesting further away but that might still negatively impact developing the site.”

The survey also highlighted the possible presence of water voles in a nearby ditch.

Mr McElroy said he and fellow members of the charity’s board have since been reassured that this need not cause them to abandon interest in the site.

“We have taken advice from Caithness Bird Club and other ecological organisations and have found it should not be as much of an issue as we first thought,” he said.

“We have been advised there are ways and means of mitigating the impact without requiring us to do a full-scale bird breeding season survey.”

He said that CBP might however carry out such a survey next year in order to satisfy itself that the broch would not damage local birdlife.

“We’re an organisation with sustainability and environmental concerns at its heart and we want to look after the birdlife and nature.

“That is why we’ll be using traditional techniques to build the broch that doesn’t involve large, heavy machinery.”

It has already undertaken other studies including road visibility, access, peat depth and drainage.

Mr McElroy added: “We don’t think the bird issue will hold the project back.”

CBP intends to reveal its preferred site towards the end of this year when it also plans to unveil the first images of what its broch will look like.

The 40 feet high double-walled drystone tower is to be built by a team of heritage craftsmen using traditional tools and techniques.

The plans include the distinctive triangular doorway lintels and domed roof and the outbuildings surrounding the broch.

Mr McElroy said: “Once we firm up all the preparations and can be assured there are no barriers to the site, we’ll decide exactly how much land we need and proceed with the acquisition of the land.”

He conceded the £1-3 million initial estimate for the project may will need to be revised upwards due to the subsequent rise in building materials.

The main fundraising campaign, he said, would be launched after it received planning consent.

CBP was set up to help preserve and promote the network of brochs as well as building a broch, which it believes could be a major tourist attraction.

Caithness has the biggest accumulation of the mysterious early Iron Age towers of anywhere in the country.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More