SHIFT­ING SKY­LINES

New de­vel­op­ments are caus­ing blots on Scot­land's land­scapes

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

Love it or loathe it, change is here to stay. It never ceases to amaze when cob­bled streets and leafy walk­ways, once so fa­mil­iar, are now al­most un­recog­nis­able. The ar­rival of new de­vel­op­ments here, the dis­ap­pear­ance of old build­ings there. Th­ese sights bring with them a dis­tinct wave of nostal­gia. Al­though we can all ap­pre­ci­ate a warm, draught-free mod­ern build, see­ing soul­less lumps of con­crete plonked in the mid­dle of his­toric sites seems crim­i­nal. More im­por­tantly it makes one won­der if we are be­gin­ning to lose sight of our her­itage – of what makes ‘Bonny Scot­land’ so bonny. Over the past decade, both city and coun­try­side ter­rain have been chang­ing at an alarm­ing pace, and blots on the land­scape seem to be tak­ing an ever-tighter hold.

Most re­cently, there was much gnash­ing of teeth on the Isle of Skye when con­tro­ver­sial plans for the £100 mil­lion Ma­rine Har­vest fish pro­cess­ing plant were ap­proved. Soon, tourists and lo­cals alike will go Over the Sea to Skye an­tic­i­pat­ing rugged views of coastal mag­nif­i­cence, but in­stead will be met by an un­sightly in­dus­trial plant bear­ing a 195-foot chim­ney. How will vis­i­tors feel – hav­ing trav­elled half way around the globe to see the is­land Bon­nie Prince Char­lie fled to in the mid-1700s – when they are wel­comed by such an eye­sore?

That is not to say, of course, that the site will not ben­e­fit the is­land. In­deed, the plant’s vis­i­tor cen­tre was highly en­dorsed for its po­ten­tial to boost the lo­cal econ­omy, and the plant will pro­vide 55 full-time jobs. How­ever, Scot­land’s lush green spa­ces are what at­tract global recog­ni­tion. Surely th­ese unique land­scapes must be nur­tured, not de­stroyed. With tourism as our col­lec­tive fu­ture in Scot­land, must we place th­ese stark build­ings in such prom­i­nent beauty spots?

The same might be said for build­ing in front of Aberdeen’s Marischal Col­lege. Grow­ing up, I could walk up the Kirk­gate and be met by the im­pos­ing splen­dour of the sec­ond largest gran­ite build­ing in the world. Now, one of the Gran­ite City’s main at­trac­tions merely peaks over the new £170 mil­lion Marischal Square de­vel­op­ment – which, to add in­sult to in­jury, was con­structed with 180 tonnes of im­ported Chi­nese gran­ite. The sky­line of Aberdeen will re­main changed for­ever. And for the worse.

That is be­fore we men­tion the 11 new wind tur­bines off the north east coast. Some of the world’s most ad­vanced elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tors, th­ese tur­bines should be enough to power 80,000 homes per year. Nev­er­the­less, the £335 mil­lion in­vest­ment is a sore spot for many, not least for the US Pres­i­dent whose golf course view is now blocked by tum­bling wind­mills.

His In­ter­na­tional Golf Links sports panoramic views of Balme­die, and the nearby New­burgh Beach draws in tourists from far and wide to see the res­i­dent colony of seals. Like it or not, Trump’s re­sort was an op­por­tu­nity for the north east to boost its econ­omy. Surely we ought to have pre­served the nat­u­ral beauty that surrounds it to en­cour­age more tourism to the area? It could be ar­gued though that the coast should never have been touched at all.

The same goes for the Stronelairg wind farm on Gar­ro­gie es­tate which was dumped on the land sur­round­ing one of Scot­land’s most valu­able as­sets, Loch Ness. You might give a wry smile when you think of “Nessie”, but the leg­end at­tracts in ex­cess of £25 mil­lion an­nu­ally. So why do we let th­ese de­vel­op­ments be­smirch the fa­mous High­land land­scape?

Not all plan­ning per­mis­sion spats are viewed as hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on tourism, though. Plans for the £10 mil­lion Coul Links golf course in Dornoch are set to en­hance the town’s eco­nomic strength, bring­ing around 250 jobs and £60 mil­lion in the first decade. Th­ese fig­ures are dis­puted though and many or­gan­i­sa­tions re­main op­posed to the plans. A pe­ti­tion con­test­ing the re­sort drew in over 90,000 sig­na­tures, and was sup­ported by sev­eral na­tional char­i­ties, in­clud­ing the RSPB.

The 32 acres will be a sea­side haven for golfers, but it is to be built on a site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est. Home to rare plants like coastal ju­niper trees, as well as a wealth of bird species in­clud­ing waders and water­fowl, crit­ics ar­gue that the golf course will likely dis­rupt the har­mony of wildlife.

Pro­gres­sion is of course es­sen­tial in mod­ern so­ci­ety – af­ter all, change can in­deed be a won­der­ful thing. How­ever, with Scot­land’s ma­jes­tic ru­ral and city land­scapes be­ing tainted, or in­deed ir­re­versibly dam­aged by con­tem­po­rary projects, is it time to re­think our ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment?

The sky­line of Aberdeen will re­main changed for­ever

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