Conservationists fight Pentlands zipline plans

New bike trails planned for Pentland''Pentland Trail'Illustration by connor Lawrie
New bike trails planned for Pentland''Pentland Trail'Illustration by connor Lawrie

Conservationists want to ground plans for a zipline in the Pentlands because of its impact on historic woodland.

The Advertiser reported in February how two local businessmen want to turn land at Lothianburn golf course into a mountain bike trail and leisure complex.

They hope this will offer an introduction to traffic-free cycling for kids and their families, as well as more challenging cross-country trails for Edinburgh and Midlothian’s estimated 260,000 cyclists.

But now a petition by the Friends of Swanston is asking city planners to throw out the project has attracted more than 1,000 signatures.

Local resident and Swanston Village Conservation Association chairman Steve Appolinari said: “This is a fragile conservation area. It would be totally inappropriate to build a campsite so close to a quiet village and run zip wires and mountain bike trails through protected woodland.

“We strongly believe that the campsite and other developments would irreversibly damage wildlife habitats in this part of the Pentland Hills and destroy the unique character of Swanston village.”

Mr Appolinari said the proposed campsite would create more noise, rubbish, and boozing in the area, while the shops and restaurants would add congestion on the bypass.

“People come to this unique part of the Pentlands for the beautiful scenery, wildlife, and tranquillity, all of which would be irreparably damaged as a result of the proposed developments,” he added.

“If the campsite, retail, and recreation facilities are rubber-stamped, it would set a dangerous precedent and send out a clear message to every developer in Scotland that Edinburgh’s greenbelt and outstanding conservation areas are up for sale.”

Blueprints for the 6.5-mile track, cafe and sleeping accommodation at the former Lothianburn golf course are the second major leisure plans unveiled for the Pentlands.

Other outdoor activities outlined for Lothianburn include a high ropes course, zipline and an alpine roller luge. Proposals also comprise a café, changing facilities, shops, office space and accommodation “pods”.

The Pentland Trail Centre is an initiative of Hillend Leisure Ltd, a company established by Alastair McClung of Swanston Farms, the landowner of the Lothianburn site, and Stuart Wright – Advie Properties and formerly responsible for Dobbies’ development activities.

Mr Wright said: “We have been custodians of the Swanston area for many decades and have always been passionate about creating a responsible balance between conservation and access for the wider public in the pursuit of outdoor activity. Our proposals for the Pentlands Trail Centre development have been carefully crafted with respect for the environment.”

Mr Wright thanked the “vast majority” who saw benefits in the scheme and gave “very positive” feedback to the plans during consultation.

He added: “However, we are taking careful note of any issues raised, in particular those comments regarding the impact on Swanston Village, the A702, the City Bypass and the site’s wildlife and woodland conservation.

“All of the issues highlighted will contribute to our refined masterplan for the site as we move forward to the next stage of the planning process.”

The project is separate to plans for a zipline at Hillend which received £13.8 million of funding from Midlothian Council earlier this month.