Anger as plan for houses at Cul­lo­den is ap­proved

The Herald - - NEWS - GE­ORGE MAIR

SCOT­LAND’S main her­itage group has hit out at a “flawed” plan­ning sys­tem af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial ap­pli­ca­tion to build 16 houses at Cul­lo­den was given the go-ahead.

The Na­tional Trust for Scot­land (NTS) said High­land Coun­cil was given “no choice” but to ap­prove the con­struc­tion, de­spite the lo­ca­tion be­ing within a con­ser­va­tion zone and “the historic bound­aries of one of the most piv­otal bat­tle­fields in all of Scot­land’s his­tory”.

There had been wide­spread op­po­si­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of lux­ury homes at Viewhill Farm but High­land Coun­cil’s En­vi­ron­ment, De­vel­op­ment and In­fra­struc­ture (EDI) Com­mit­tee granted per­mis­sion.

The site is within the boundary of the Cul­lo­den (Bat­tle­field) Con­ser­va­tion Area and Historic En­vi­ron­ment Scot­land’s In­ven­tory of Historic Bat­tle­fields.

His­to­ri­ans have claimed that the 1746 Bat­tle of Cul­lo­den was fought in part on the site, and sol­diers are likely to be buried there.

The com­mit­tee voted by 12 votes to eight in favour of grant­ing per­mis­sion to de­vel­oper Kirk­wood Homes.

The NTS said the de­ci­sion was the re­sult of a flawed plan­ning sys­tem.

Diarmid Hearns, head of pol­icy for NTS, said: “The sit­u­a­tion at Cul­lo­den per­fectly il­lus­trates why the cur­rent plan­ning sys­tem has to be re­formed and that the cur­rent bal­ance be­tween the rights of com­mu­ni­ties, the sig­nif­i­cance of na­tional her­itage and the prof­its of de­vel­op­ers is out of kil­ter.

“Lo­cal peo­ple and the demo­crat­i­cally elected High­land Coun­cil re­jected the ap­pli­ca­tion to build houses at Viewhill Farm in 2013; yet de­vel­op­ers were able to use a route of ap­peal not open to or­di­nary res­i­dents to have this de­ci­sion over­turned by the Scottish Reporter. This was the wrong de­ci­sion in the wrong place.”

Plan­ning per­mis­sion for prop­er­ties had been granted by a Scottish Govern­men­tap­pointed plan­ning of­fi­cial in 2014. How­ever, changes to the de­sign and lay­out of the homes fol­lowed the trans­fer of the site to new own­ers.

High­land coun­cil­lors had ear­lier de­ferred a de­ci­sion on Aberdeen­shire-based Kirk­wood Homes’ project to give the de­vel­oper time to sup­ply de­signs more sen­si­tive to the sur­round­ing area.

The process de­scended into chaos in March when coun­cil­lors voted to grant the ap­pli­ca­tion “by mis­take”. The de­ci­sion was sus­pended af­ter Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lor Andrew Jarvie, who voted to re­ject the plans, sub­mit­ted a No­tice of Amend­ment, ask­ing for the vote to be re­viewed be­cause of doubts over the out­come.

The ap­pli­ca­tion was con­sid­ered again from scratch by the coun­cil’s EDI com­mit­tee.

Mr Jarvie said: “I’m bit­terly dis­ap­pointed. This was the fi­nal route of ap­peal.”

The In­ver­ness South coun­cil­lor said that only the Scottish Gov­ern­ment has the power to re­call the Reporter’s de­ci­sion, but he added: “Given that it’s four years on and they’ve not done it so far, it seems un­likely.”

Campaign group The His­to­ri­ans Com­mit­tee On Cul­lo­den said the Reporter’s de­ci­sion to al­low plan­ning per­mis­sion was based on in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion sur­round­ing where the bat­tle was fought.

The group said the area of Viewhill Farm played a sig­nif­i­cant part in the fight­ing be­tween Bon­nie Prince Char­lie’s Ja­co­bite army and Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment troops and bod­ies are likely to be buried on the site, which should be con­sid­ered a war grave.

High­land Coun­cil said: “At to­day’s meet­ing of the EDI Com­mit­tee mem­bers con­sid­ered the No­tice of Amend­ment and then went on to ap­prove the ap­pli­ca­tion fol­low­ing a vote which went 12 votes to eight in favour of ap­prov­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion.”

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