With the Speyside Way and the Sustrans cycle route meeting in the village and being surrounded by abundant wildlife and beautiful scenery, tourism is of major importance to the village. There is also a strong community spirit, demonstrated recently by the building of a new Community Hall.
There has been no major expansion of the village for over 20 years and it became clear that additional housing was necessary to be able to retain public services and the local school where pupil numbers were falling.
Plans were prepared to expand housing into commercial woodland at the North of the village and after extensive research into the public’s use of the larger plantation woodland area for recreational activity the village looked to be destined to gradual stagnation when in November 2011 the proposals were refused planning permission on the grounds of increased recreational use of the woods and the impact that may have on wildlife - particularly Capercailzie. Although Capercailzie use of the surrounding woods is not high, it is believed that the birds use the wood as they move to and from the larger population areas of Kinveachy and Abernethy, and in the wider picture the area around Boat of Garten is of great importance.
It was agreed by the Community Council, Cairngorms National Park, Scottish Natural Heritage, the proposed developer and the Estate that a way had to be found round the difficulty. Affordable housing was of as much importance as looking after wildlife.
Engaging three of the Seafield Family Estates, and taking the opportunity of a general commercial forestry thinning in the area, plans were formed for substantial mitigation work both in the wider woodlands around the village and along the bank of the Spey, all to ensure that recreational use of the estate’s land would reduce any existing disturbance and accommodate a higher footfall by locals and tourists alike.
There was consideration of 20,200m of identifiable tracks within the woodland and that 47% of the area was within 125m from an established track and around 14% of this area within the buffer zone of a particularly sensitive area. The agreed mitigation plan involved an immediate need to provide trackside locations to encourage the development of screening regeneration or planting positions for shrub species to be used as screens. The main sensitive locations were surveyed, taking into account the degree of visibility into the crop due to landform and crop density. Areas were then identified for select felling and supplementary planting with scarification being carried out to create a suitable seed bed for regeneration.
Community engagement on the proposals began in 2011 and follow up articles in the local newsletter in July 2012 and an evening presentation at the Boat of Garten Hall in September 2012.
Operations started in November 2012 with the upgrade of 1,350 metres of the central road. In the areas with a more complete canopy, supplementary planting was suggested and a mix of Holly and Juniper was chosen with 1,500 to be planted in strategic locations. Planting was completed in spring 2013 and scarification took place in late 2013 ready for the 2014 seedfall and arrangements were made to improve the walk along the bank of the Spey.
In June 2013 the Cairngorms National Park passed the planning application securing new housing for the village that should help maintain public services and ensure by mitigation works that wildlife interests have been fully addressed.