Our Natural and Built Environment
In 2016 the Community Action Plan Survey asked residents what three things they liked about living in Callander. 90% of those who answered the question listed our natural environment. Either the beauty of the landscape, the walks we take, the outdoor activities we enjoy, our proximity to the wider National Park area or simply the sense of space we enjoy in Callander.
Conversely our built environment, especially along the Main Street, came in for heavy criticism with 70% of people saying that they disliked the poor appearance of shops, the volume of traffic, the lack of choice from retailers, the presence of so many charity shops or the number of empty shops. Other people commented on the poor design of new build houses in the town.
Question: Do these things still matter and how can we address them in Callander’s Local Place Plan?
Landscape and access to the countryside
Callander Landscape Partnership has installed a continuous off-road route from the town centre through the Crags and has improved signage and information for walkers. Other projects in the pipeline include improved signage throughout the town and countryside, the restoration of Little Leny graveyard and meadows, enhancing the woodlands at Leny Woods and the Crags and creating an all-ability trail at Coilhallan Woods. The biggest project in the pipeline is the restoration of the Victorian walkway at the Falls of Leny – creating an improved tourist attraction in the town. The Partnership is in the process of producing a paths strategy – a network of all access paths designed to provide either interconnected access to the town or to provide enhanced routes to some of our most scenic natural landscapes. We will update you as soon as the plan is agreed and you can decide if you would like to see the plan included in the Place Plan.
Bracklinn Bridge. The bridge was a landmark development in Callander when it was installed in 2011, winning an international award. Sadly, it will have to be demolished because it is no longer safe to use. An almost identical bridge built and designed by the same contractors, at Carrie Burn, was closed in 2019 for the same reason. We can ask that a replacement bridge is installed as soon as is reasonably possible. It is unlikely that the replacement bridge will be made from timber but we could ask that it has some architectural merit and that the community is consulted on the design.
Stirling Council submitted a proposal to build a flood wall along the Meadows car park. This was rejected by CCC, CCDT and community flood response groups. The reasoning was that a wall would not protect all properties at risk of flooding, only those immediately adjacent to the Meadows and the wall would not mitigate against run off from the Crags. A high wall would also significantly impact on the visual amenity of the Meadows. Dr Richard Johnson has designed an alternative approach – creating a series of bunds to slow the movement of flood waters. This is currently being considered by Stirling and has the support of community and residents’ flood groups.
In the last CAP we wanted to encourage local food growing and opportunities for community allotments. Finding suitable land is probably the biggest problem however land could be found within the Clash Farm development zones.
The Scottish Allotments and Garden Society Green space survey recommended to the Scottish Government that 2.7% of the population have access to an allotment whilst the current average provision is 1 plot per 500 people.
Stirling Council has legislative duties under Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 which introduces new rights for communities to have access to - and the right to lease - allotments, as well as duties for local authorities to maintain an allotment waiting list, increase the provision of allotments, and prepare and review a local food growing strategy for its area.
The National Park has a planning policy to support local food growing but this has not been used to set aside any food growing areas within new housing developments in Callander.
Callander now has a constituted group: Callander Allotment Development Group, that are trying to establish allotments for Callander.
CCDT failed to gain funding to take Coilhallan Woods into community ownership and they remain the property of Forestry Land Scotland (FLS). There have been several proposals from within the community to enhance the woodlands in the past so that they could provide a site for mountain bike trails. At present we are not aware of any plans from FLS to create areas within the woods for specific activities.
The community can make suggestions about the use of our woodlands but FLS do not have to comply with community wishes under LPP legislation. However, if evidence could be provided to establish a project’s feasibility and local demand, the Park would have to consider the project(s) and, if accepted, support any planning permission submitted.
We can also ask that the existing woodlands and tress in and around Callander are given greater protection in the future – for example there are no trees within the Callander boundary that are protected. Some of the trees on private, non-forestry, land we see every day have been in place for over 200 years and are being felled, and sold for timber, despite being designated in the Park’s Local Plan as forming an extension to the ancient woodlands.
We looked at the lack of retail diversity in the Main Street in the business section, but it is important to understand that, with one exception, neither the community or the statutory authorities have control over which shops open or close – this is in the hands of market forces. St Kessogs is the only property in the Main Street owned by a statutory authority (Stirling Council) and therefore it is the only building where the community can make suggestions around its use. Consultations on St Kessogs’ future are ongoing and are covered separately. The community can purchase shops if it is financially viable, as was the case in the purchase of 55 Main Street – now the Callander Visitor Information Centre.
While some people think that the number of charity shops along the Main Street impacts on the perception of Callander, the other side of this argument is that these shops are occupied and might otherwise lay vacant. Callander retail landlords have historically charged significantly higher rent than in similar locations. Property owners with a large portfolio of assets are more able to afford the cost of keeping a property empty and so are less willing to lower the rental cost. At present there are 7 vacant properties in the Main Street area including St Kessogs and 2 derelict properties (Ciro/Victoria Court and the Eagle). The Eagle (on the corner of Bridge St and Mains St) has been the subject of complaints by the Community Council as it appeared to have been deliberately left to deteriorate – at the time of writing work appears to have restarted on upgrading the building. In the LPP we can insist that action is taken to compel owners of derelict buildings to make them safe, or to force a change of ownership.
Appearance of Main Street
The A84, pavements and lighting are maintained by BEAR for Transport Scotland. Stirling Council are responsible for Ancaster Square and all other roads, pavements, paths and lighting in the rest of Callander. Our Community Council liaises with Stirling to ensure that maintenance on the areas within their responsibility is carried out.
The appearance of Main Street shop fronts falls to the National Park because the Main Street is within a conservation area. Most local authorities produce a design guidance for shop fronts within a conservation area, This will set boundaries for things such as signage, architectural features, doorways, access and canopies. The Park has not produced any design guidance for any shops within conservation areas in their control. Instead, they make planning decisions relating to any alterations to existing shop fronts that detract from the original character of the building.
The community can ask that a Design Guidance is issued for the Main Street conservation area but must remember that existing business owners might not comply and enforcement, by the Park, is weak.
New Build Housing
The Park has produced extensive advice for new build housing within its boundaries. Much is written about green infrastructure, ecosystems, water management and valuing nature while design is covered in the section called Sense of Place. This section asks that new build housing should relate to the existing vernacular – mirroring rooflines and architectural features. In reality most of the properties built since the National Park became our planning authority fail to conform, or relate to, any local vernacular – with the only criteria evident in planning approval being the roof height of new build housing – even then, the terrace at the eastern entrance to the town greets us with a twin ‘feature’ roofline which bears no connection to other properties in the town and appears to be an embellishment rather than serving any utilitarian purpose.
The Community Council must be consulted on any new planning proposals and since 2018, have been regularly opposing unsuitable planning applications. We have asked them to comment and will update this page as soon as they have considered the issues.
Future-proofing a more resilient Callander
What infrastructure will be needed to make Callander a more resilient low carbon economy? Being able to easily walk or cycle to the basics such as doctors and food shops will be important as will having sufficient space in Callander to grow our own food. Sufficient broadband speeds and flexible office spaces to allow greater homeworking might also be an important consideration to plan for. A balance will need to be struck in planning policy to allow buildings to become better insulated and more energy efficient whilst still retaining Callander’s historic building character.
Low Carbon Energy Infrastructure
The UK Government recently confirmed a target for all new heating system installations to be low carbon by 2035. For Callander this means moving away from predominantly using gas to heat our homes as this isn’t a low carbon solution. Switching to low carbon heating in the coming years could mean switching to individual electric heat pumps, or Callander could choose to go down the route of installing its own community heating system, for example using waste water heat or other renewable energy solution. The Callander Community Development Trust already runs a small but very successful community hydro energy scheme and has, in the past asked consultants to undertake a feasibility of a community heating scheme. Other rural communities of a similar size to Callander have ambitious plans for community energy schemes that could take their communities “off-grid”.