Chief ex­ec­u­tive’s let­ter to the P&J ex­plains dan­ger

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - LOCAL NEWS - Si­mon Skin­ner, chief ex­ec­u­tive, Na­tional Trust for Scot­land

SIR, – It is with no plea­sure what­so­ever that I re­port the Na­tional Trust for Scot­land’s fears for the pro­tec­tion of our her­itage are com­ing to pass.

On 14 Jan­uary 2014, we wrote to this news­pa­per and many oth­ers con­cern­ing the fail­ure of pol­icy and leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect the his­toric Cul­lo­den Bat­tle­field from de­vel­op­ment. The spe­cific de­vel­op­ment (Viewhill Farm lux­ury houses) does not in it­self fa­tally im­pinge on the bat­tle­field, but it sets a prece­dent from which other de­vel­op­ers can ar­gue for more por­tions of land to be given over to yet more hous­ing.

To its credit, this was the dan­ger recog­nised by High­land Coun­cil when it orig­i­nally re­jected the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Your read­ers will be aware that the coun­cil’s re­jec­tion was over­turned by the Scot­tish Re­porter.

As I write, an ad­di­tional four de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tions have been sub­mit­ted, all lo­cated in the Con­ser­va­tion Area. These may her­ald even more de­vel­op­ment in turn threat­en­ing to form a cir­cle that, if unchecked, would even­tu­ally widen, join-up and con­strict the core site pro­tected by our char­ity. Ex­actly what we fore­saw may well come about and we are in dan­ger of Cul­lo­den suf­fer­ing the same fate as Ban­nock­burn bat­tle­field.

At the same time, we see coun­cil­lors have ap­proved a golf course de­vel­op­ment on the Coul Links, de­spite it be­ing of such en­vi­ron­men­tal im­por­tance it falls within the Loch Fleet Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est.

Four years ago we ar­gued that we need a plan­ning frame­work that con­sid­ers the to­tal­ity and long-term well­be­ing of her­itage sites rather than the cur­rent, dif­fuse fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions in iso­la­tion. That need still ex­ists.

We are at cross­roads. Do we want to pro­tect our out­stand­ing his­tor­i­cal places and nat­u­ral her­itage or not? Do des­ig­na­tions to pro­tect her­itage such as Con­ser­va­tion Ar­eas, Listed Build­ing sta­tus and SSSIs still have any mean­ing?

De­vel­op­ers will al­ways ar­gue that pris­tine sites are more at­trac­tive be­cause they are cheaper to build on and of­fer at­trac­tive lo­ca­tions for liv­ing and leisure; they will al­ways play the trump card of claim­ing that jobs and eco­nomics out­weigh the loss of his­tory and habi­tats. We would do well to re­mem­ber that the eco­nomic ben­e­fit to Scot­land from tourism di­rectly at­trib­ut­able to our out­stand­ing places of beauty is far larger than the en­tire agri­cul­ture and fish­eries sec­tors com­bined. Oth­ers value our her­itage even if we don’t al­ways ap­pear to.

In 2014, we called on the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment for di­a­logue on how we can prop­erly iden­tify sites of na­tional im­por­tance and en­sure full con­sid­er­a­tion of her­itage sig­nif­i­cance is em­bed­ded within the plan­ning process. It is now time for that di­a­logue. The forth­com­ing Plan­ning (Scot­land) Bill is a wa­ter­shed that could prove to be the saviour of some of Scot­land’s most spe­cial places or the pre­lude to their ir­recov­er­able loss.

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