Contractor appointed for Sutherland field centre

field_centre_Forsinard RSPBA contractor has been appointed to build a new £1.9 million bespoke field centre at Forsinard in Sutherland.

Thurso-based contractor O’Brien Construction will build the research centre in the Flow Country, a vast area of peatland in Scotland’s Far North.

The state-of-the-art field centre will offer accommodation and facilities for research students, long term volunteers and university groups to study peatlands in the Flow Country and the effects of the ground-breaking peatland restoration techniques being led by RSPB Scotland, The Forestry Commission Scotland and private partners.

This will contribute significantly to placing Scotland at the heart of science and good practice around peatlands, which are vital carbon stores, as well as being wonderful places for wildlife.

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “We have been working here in the Flows for over 20 years restoring the peatlands, blocking drainage ditches and felling inappropriately planted trees on a major scale to bring this habitat back to its former glory. But the next phase is the most exciting of all.

“I am very proud of the local team and very grateful indeed to all of the peatland partnership, and particularly to HLF that have really helped us to realise this fantastic idea and bring it to reality.”

The field centre is part of the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Flows to the Future Project, which RSPB Scotland leads on behalf of the Peatlands Partnership.

When construction is finished the field centre will greatly increase the opportunities for volunteering and research in the Flow Country. It will provide much needed bunkhouse-type accommodation for volunteers, researchers and students, an education/community room, a small field laboratory and offices.

The existing facilities at Forsinard are inadequate, but the new building will enable all the organisations working on peatland management and research in the Flows to work more effectively and also to increase the scale of work going on.

Donald Chambers from O’Brien Construction said: “We are pleased to have secured this prestigious contract and to be once again working together with the RSPB and the Peatlands Partnership.”

The building has been designed by Colin Armstrong Associates in Inverness and gained unanimous support from councillors when presented for approval to the North Planning Applications Committee of the Highland Council.

It is being built on land owned by RSPB Scotland between the existing railway line and the A897. To minimise its environmental impact the field centre has been designed following Passivhaus principles, which involve very high insulation specifications. Wood fuel will provide the heating, which will again reduce its carbon footprint.

Caroline Eccles, project manager responsible for the development delivery, added: “This is an exciting time. Forsinard has already become a focal point on a UK level for both practical peatland restoration and associated research looking at the significance of the peatlands for storing carbon.

“There are already many universities and organisations working at Forsinard, including Thurso’s Environmental Research Institute, who are looking forward to using the new facilities. Many local schools and youth groups are also keen to use the building.”

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