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9-Misc: Scottish Highland Council approves GE protester camp

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Genetically Modified Crop Trials Forum:
        GM vigil group gain planning permission for camp
SOURCE: The Highland Council, Scotland/UK, by John Gray
DATE:   November 20, 2001

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The Highland Council's Ross and Cromarty Area Planning Committee has 
unanimously approved a planning application from protesters to maintain an 
encampment near the scene of two recent farmscale trials of genetically 
modified crops in Ross-shire. The Munlochy Vigil was granted permission to 
maintain two caravans, a toilet and a Mongolian-style Yurt (information 
centre) at a council-owned lay-by at Roskill Farm, Munlochy, until the end 
of August, next year. A condition of approval is that the development is 
cleared within one week of the expiry of the planning consent. At the start 
of the debate, four members of the committee declared an interest and did 
not vote. David Alston, Peter Cairns and Margaret Paterson said their views 
on the issue were so well known that they might not be perceived as being 
impartial. Lou Wilkerson declared an interest through being related to one 
of the objectors. The committee heard that 120 letters had been received in 
support of the encampment being maintained. There had also been 17 letters 
of objections. In recommending approval of the application, Area Planning 
and Building Control Manager, Jim Farquhar, said he had taken into account 
the views of the local community. In his view, the encampment did not pose 
a road safety problem nor did it have a material impact on the environment.

The Highland Council

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Council gives green light for anti-GM vigil
SOURCE: The Herald, UK, by David Ross
DATE:   November 21, 2001

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Council gives green light for anti-GM vigil

Highland Council yesterday snubbed Ross Finnie, the rural affairs minister, 
by unanimously voting to give anti-GM protesters planning permission to 
continue their vigil on council land beside the GM site on the Black Isle 
until next August. In recent weeks civil servants and Mr Finnie himself 
have written to the council urging them to move the camp. They alleged that 
the protesters had harassed Jamie Grant, the farmer conducting the GM trial 
on Roskill farm near Munlochy, and his family. No complaint was received by 
the police, however, and a planning application from the protesters was 
received for "two caravans, a toilet, and a yurt (central Asian nomads' 
tent) acting as an information centre".

More than 120 letters supporting the application were received mostly from 
people living in and around the Black Isle, underlining the strength of 
local feeling. Only 17 objected, many of them from the farming fraternity. 
Jim Farquhar, the Ross and Cromarty area planning manager, reported to 
councillors in Dingwall yesterday that he had initially been concerned 
about road safety, but concluded that drivers slowed down out of curiosity 
and while there were still dangers "these are probably no greater than 
normal in relation to any countryside road." Neither was Mr Farquhar too 
concerned about the aesthetic threat posed by the camp.

He said: "Its impact is not far-reaching - it can only be seen over a short 
distance by users of this road. Its temporary nature and mobility of the 
structures mean that its impact will be short-lived. Measured against 
community council views and popular support, I do not consider that its 
existence for a temporary period is damaging in a non-sustainable way."

The granting of planning permission is just the latest round in a dispute 
between the council and Mr Finnie. The minister outraged councillors in 
August last year by giving Mr Grant permission for his first GM trial 
without the prior local consultation specifically requested by the council, 
which then unsuccessfully petitioned the Court of Session to make GM field 
trials subject to planning controls.

In August Mr Finnie gave Mr Grant permission for a far larger trial, 
leading to the protest and vigil. Five protesters were subsequently charged 
with aggravated trespass and are due to stand trial in January. Neither Mr 
Grant nor the executive would comment yesterday, but Black Isle councillor 
David Alston said: "I think we have an obligation to allow people to 
protest in a reasonable manner and that's one of the reasons we are 
allowing this on council land."


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