Kirkland Farm objections fail to stop go-ahead

MASS objections from locals could not stop approval of a new tourist attraction in Old Minnigaff this week.

Residents from around Kirkland Farm have been campaigning for months to stop agricultural land being transformed into a holiday haven with fish ponds and car parking.

But Wigtown Area Committee councillors gave owner Mark Swindlehurst the go-ahead for his plans on Wednesday.

He will now develop two fishing ponds, three holiday cottages and change an existing steading to form a house. This is all in addition to developing a farm shop on the land, which was granted approval in 2006.

A 27-name petition lodged with the council by Minnigaff residents objected on road safety grounds and claimed the area did not need another fishing business or farm shop.

At Wednesday's meeting in Wigtown, Cilla Strain, whose property overlooks part of the site, said on behalf of all the objectors that such a development is unnecessary.

She added: "We have an over-supply of holiday cottages in Dumfries and Galloway and, if we continue to spread the share too thin, no one will make a profit.

"There are plenty of fishing amenities in the area already and this will provide nothing in the way of benefits to the local economy. This development will take more away from this quiet, rural setting than it can ever replace. It's just too much."

Agreeing, neighbour Stuart Coy said the narrow roads leading to the farm are wholly inappropriate for the scheme being devised and that the suggested speed of traffic on the road by roads officials is "nonsense".

He added: "We are the family most affected by this development as our house is the closest. And I can tell you, cars do not drive down there at 20 to 25 miles per hour. Most are definitely over thirty and we've had several near-misses."

Mr Coy said: "Cattle and farm vehicles use the road and there is always collateral damage afterwards. Please do not allow this very special part of Minnigaff to be destroyed."

In response, Mr Swindlehurst said he was mindful of all the objections, but developing his farmland is the only way he can sustain the land.

He said: "This application typifies what small farms like mine need to do to survive.

"This is not an application to start a Club 18-30s. This will be a family-run business and we feel we have struck the right balance to develop Kirkland Farm, given our zero-grant status."

Of the narrow, single-track lane which is the only access to the site, planning officer Billy Murray said that although the track isn't ideal, it is still possible to add three passing places there.

He said: "Pedestrians and cyclists use lanes like this routinely.

"The land available to make passing places is perhaps not in an optimum position, but it can be done and the road safety issues can be addressed."

Councillor Robert Higgins said that he wasn't impressed by the application and that a number of issues were causing him concern, particularly the traffic flow.

Mid Galloway councillor Alistair Geddes said: "We are trying to promote Newton Stewart as the gateway to the Galloway Hills.

"Therefore I think developments such as this should be given serious consideration, but it is imperative that they are in the correct place.

"Given the roads issues here, I don't think that this is the correct place."

Councillor Sandra McDowall pointed out that Cream O' Galloway at Gatehouse has difficult access but had become a "roaring success" and that such a business needs someone with "drive and determination" behind it.

After going to a vote before the full committee, the application was agreed by seven votes to two and permission was granted.