New developments are causing blots on Scotland's landscapes
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