BUILDING two houses out of straw at Inzievar Sawmill near Oakley will help protect the woods from arson and vandalism.

Dramatically reducing the "potential for serious consequences" is one of the reasons put forward by Scottish Wood in support of a planning application to Fife Council for development in the countryside.

Manager Jim Birley started the social enterprise in 2000 and it's had "considerable success" having grown from a single man operation to "what is now the largest hardwood sawmill in Scotland" that employs 15 people.

READ MORE: Woodland groups band together for a good sit down

It's in the woods just to the south of Oakley and he stays on site but the plan is that, when he retires, his grown up children will take it over and live in the two new houses.

As well as ensuring the operational management of the sawmill into the future, the plans will help with security and safety too, reducing the "considerable" risk of fire and deterring would-be criminals.

Dunfermline Press: The applicants say adding two new houses will help improve security and protect the woodlands near the Inzievar Sawmill.The applicants say adding two new houses will help improve security and protect the woodlands near the Inzievar Sawmill. (Image: Google Maps)

A planning statement on Mr Birley's behalf said the yard is next to a beauty spot that's become a "popular social place for young people" in the community.

It added: "Sadly, there have been multiple occasions of vandalism in the area, with graffitied trees; arson (burning of benches, and fires lit against the trunks of mature trees causing extensive and lasting damage); and extensive littering.

"On a number of occasions late night gatherings have resulted in young individuals climbing the boundary fence and climbing onto timber stacks in the yard.

"Perhaps most concerning has been the increasing risk of woodland fires here which have at times come close to crossing the forest boundary and passing into the neighbouring farmer's standing crop.

"Jim has had to put out fires here on a number of occasions and more than once has had to contact the local fire service.

READ MORE: Dangerous driver jailed after causing head-on smash

"A physical presence at this more remote east end of the site would dramatically reduce the misuse of this beautiful spot, and the potential for serious consequences for the sawmill, and the adjacent farm crops, should fire take hold and spread."

Security is also an important issue: "As a busy and productive sawmill, Scottish Wood has a considerable amount of valuable equipment and machines.

"Increasing incidents of rural theft makes a 24-hour on-site presence essential.

"Site safety is also an issue with oversight of the sawmill essential to be aware of, and deal with, public safety issues."

Scottish Wood specialises in the supply of wood from local, sustainable sources and is the trading arm of Dynamic Woods, a charity based at Inzievar that brings together local communities, environmentalists, landowners and local businesses to promote the sustainable development of woodland resources.

Profits go towards supporting local projects, especially those with an interest in woodland and timber, and recent grants have gone to the West Fife Woodlands group for footbridges and a children’s play area, and Grow West Fife at Blair Castle in Culross, to build accessible raised beds to support community growing and local food banks.

The family are keen on sustainable resources and low-impact materials and said that using straw in the building of both homes would be energy efficient as it is "an increasingly popular material in construction" that is valued as a highly effective insulator.

The planning statement explained: "The proposed houses will be occupied by essential workers in the business - family members Joanne and Douglas Birley and their families.

"They are all currently accommodated in the existing house but this is not a suitable arrangement and this application seeks to resolve the situation for the future."