Tayside and Central Scotland

Strathallan 'community divided' over T in the Park plan

Strathallan sign
Image caption DF Concerts has submitted plans to host T in the Park at Strathallan Castle from this summer

The community of Strathallan has been "divided" over the proposal to host T in the Park there, residents say.

Perth and Kinross Council is to consider an application to host the annual music event on the grounds of Strathallan Castle from this summer.

Part-owners of the estate have said they will not allow wildlife or the natural environment to be harmed.

But some residents say the site's road network and abundant wildlife make it unsuitable to host such a major event.

The festival is looking for a new home after quitting Balado after 17 years due to concerns about an oil pipeline running under the site.

Perth and Kinross Council is to consider a detailed planning application from organisers DF Concerts for the Strathallan site following a second round of public consultation.

The initial 28-day consultation drew 523 public comments, with 274 opposing the plans, 240 supporting them and nine neutral.

Image caption Residents and nature groups have raised concerns about the impact the festival could have

One objector, local resident Zazie Mackintosh, said she was worried by the ongoing dispute over the proposal, which has seen nature groups including RSPB Scotland and the Woodland Trust clash with DF Concerts and estate owners.

"I am concerned that this is dividing the community," she said.

"There are a lot of people who are opposing the proposal to have T in the Park here and there are people supporting it, and it has created real tension. I think it's a real shame that this has happened.

"I think there are many reasons why Strathallan is not the right place for this - the road network is not suitable for traffic of that volume, and there is an abundance of wildlife at the site. There's a private water supply, health and safety issues, and I think the negative impact it could have on the established tourist industry."

Image copyright William Starkey
Image caption A second public consultation on the plans is currently under way

Jamie and Debs Roberts are part-owners of the Strathallan Estate, and insist protecting the local environment has always been their priority.

"We're conservationists at heart," said Mrs Roberts.

"We've been organic farmers for the last 20 years. Looking after wildlife is not something that's different to us or a conflict for us - it's core to what we do.

"Where I have comfort is that all of the experts who have come in and looked and assessed the wildlife issues here at Strathallan, all of their recommended actions are being adhered to. Where we have specific species where there are actions to look after them, that's all being implemented so they are being protected.

"I'd also look at the work DF Concerts did at Balado - they were working alongside a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the conditions for that environmental management is much higher than anything that we would have here."

Image caption Estate part-owners Jamie and Debs Roberts insist the environment will be protected
Image caption However, some residents including Zazie Mackintosh say the site is unsuitable for such a large festival

Attracting more than 80,000 music fans every year, the festival generates a significant economic boost for Scotland - and Perthshire.

A study carried out by Glasgow-based consultancy Ekos estimated that the 2014 event generated £15m for the Scottish economy, and £2.7m locally in Perthshire, with one in five attendees travelling from outside Scotland.

However, Mrs Mackintosh claimed the event might actually harm the local tourist trade.

She said: "While I agree that T in the Park is fantastic for the Scottish economy, that would be the case wherever it was in Scotland, and I would question how beneficial it would be to the local economy. I would question that there's a significant net economic benefit.

"I think this part of Perthshire is already on the map - Gleaneagles has done a great job of that with the Ryder Cup and the G8.

"Certainly some businesses and people will benefit - and no-one more than the castle owners. But tourists come here for the landscape and the wildlife and the scenery, our local shops and art galleries, and that part of the economy would suffer."

'Best interests'

While the Roberts' are unapologetic that they would "generate revenue" from having the festival as a tenant, they insisted the move would represent "an opportunity" for Strathallan as a whole.

Mrs Roberts said: "What it came down to for us was that there was going to be a massive change, but with it come a whole raft of benefits, not just for the estate but for the wider area.

"I'm actually more convinced now than I was.

"In the last months and years we've had so many chances to challenge DF Concerts and to get answers to questions, and at every stage they've been forthright and transparent. I'm happier now today than I've ever been with it."

Image caption Traffic management plans for the event were defended by the firm which helped design them

Mr Roberts added: "We are guardians and custodians of this area, and we make the decisions - we won't let it be spoiled.

"It's the beauty that brought DF Concerts here. They're not interested in desecrating that or decimating it - it's in their best interest and ours to maintain the environment that's here."

Vehicle movements

Meanwhile, traffic plans for the event have been defended by the firm which helped design them, Yorkshire-based traffic management firm SEP Ltd.

A spokesman said there were forecast to be just under 69,000 vehicle movements across a four-week period including the festival build-up, break down and show days, including 13,000 vehicles which would be left on-site during the festival.

He said: "There is a scientific calculation of network capacity and flow rates that can be applied to the road network being used by the event.

"A desktop modelling exercise has been performed and it was successful. We are confident of our plans and are extremely experienced in managing traffic plans in rural areas."

Perth and Kinross Council aims to reach a decision on the planning application in May.

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