Fears over Fort ‘death trap’ fix

The Oban Times - - News - EMMA CRICH­TON ecrich­ton@oban­times.co.uk

ONE OF Lochaber’s old­est land­marks has be­come a ‘death trap’, but plans to safe­guard the Old Fort will see the visi­tor at­trac­tion blighted by me­tal eye­sores.

The an­cient for­ti­fi­ca­tion, the town’s name­sake, is vis­ited by more than 10,000 peo­ple ev­ery year. But it has been crum­bling away and con­cerns have been raised that chil­dren could fall 15 feet on to rocks and fenc­ing on the shore­line be­low, lead­ing care­tak­ing group, Friends of the Old Fort (FOOF) to ask His­toric Scot­land to re­store the stone wall around the area. But His­toric Scot­land said this would ‘in­ter­fere with history’ and ad­vised own­ers, Trans­port Scot­land, to sur­round the pop­u­lar pic­nic area with alu­minium rail­ings. Nor­rie Ma­cLean of FOOF said: ‘I just can’t un­der­stand it at all. It’s a death trap, a young child could easily fall and it’s a 15 foot drop so it could kill them. We asked them to re­pair the wall and put in castel­la­tion so it would be in keep­ing with what’s al­ready here and still make it safe, but they said that would in­ter­fere with history. In­stead they want to put me­tal guardrails ev­ery­where which is go­ing to in­ter­fere a lot more and look a lot worse.

‘We re­ally want some­thing done to pro­tect the area be­cause it’s sup­posed to be some­where for peo­ple to en­joy, not be afraid of, but all that alu­minium will just be a blight on the area and an eye­sore.’

The Old Fort’s history dates back to the 1656 and in­cludes the Bat­tle of In­ver­lochy, High­land Clear­ances, the Ja­co­bite Re­bel­lion and was once an em­i­gra­tion point.

Work is due to start this month, which will al­low the fore­shore to be re­opened to the public af­ter it was closed due to fall­ing boul­ders. But Mr Ma­cLean, who also runs a guest house in the town, is wor­ried the safety mea­sures will put off visi­tors.

He said: ‘There’s so much history at the Fort and it has so much po­ten­tial, but all of this me­tal is go­ing to look aw­ful. Peo­ple are al­ready put off vis­it­ing by the lack of signs and park­ing and I think this will make it worse. Some­thing needs to be done to make the area safe, but this is the wrong way to go.’

A spokes­woman for His­toric Scot­land said: ‘As the Fort is a sched­uled mon­u­ment, we have been pro­vid­ing ad­vice to Trans­port Scot­land re­gard­ing the work and we can con­firm we have been li­ais­ing with them in re­la­tion to the pos­si­ble in­tro­duc­tion of a guardrail. This would re­quire sep­a­rate sched­uled mon­u­ment con­sent and Trans­port Scot­land has there­fore de­cided to ap­ply for it at a later stage so as not to de­lay the ini­tial works.’

In a state­ment from BEAR Scot­land, which car­ries out main­te­nance work for Trans­port Scot­land, a spokes­woman said: ‘ We’ve ap­pointed a con­trac­tor to carry out the ma­sonry re­pair work which is ex­pected to start later this month. We are con­tin­u­ing to li­aise with His­toric Scot­land in re­la­tion to the in­tro­duc­tion of a guardrail at the top of the Old Fort walls.’

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DEATH TRAP: Nor­rie Ma­cLean of Friends of the Old Fort is wor­ried chil­dren could plunge 15 feet to the rocky shore be­low

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